Mike Flynn heaped praise on every member of his Newport County AFC squad for showing what he described as the resilience and grit required to see off Crewe Alexandra at Rodney Parade.
The Exiles ushered in their first victory of the campaign by the narrowest of margins against the Railwaymen, despite both sides creating a whole host of opportunities during the contest.
In a frantic opening, Crewe midfielder James Jones hit the woodwork from a long-range free-kick, whilst County duo Padraig Amond and Josh Sheehan were both denied by Abergavenny born shot stopper Dave Richards at point-blank range.
Virtually all the County deliveries into the area from both wings were finding the head of Amond in space so it was no surprise when the Irishman scored County’s first goal of the 2018/19 campaign after 33 minutes.
More clever work from debutant Mark Harris and Mickey Demetriou created an opening on the left-side, the latter delivering a pinpoint cross into the area for Amond to leap and head back across the goalkeeper into the far corner.
Crewe weren’t about to give their top of the table position up easily, however, and they had their best chance on 65 minutes when Paul Green was fouled in the area by Demetriou.
Green got up to take it but found the inspired figure of Joe Day in his way, the County shot stopper saving his first spot kick since 18th February 2017 when getting a strong hand to the attempt in the same corner that Amond scored.
Flynn threw on Charlie Cooper to give the Exiles the midfield solidarity required to see out the game and from that moment on, County showed the resilience required to secure victory – something Flynn earmarked post-match.
He affirmed: “It’s always nice to get the first points on the board and even better to do it against a good Crewe Alexandra side.
“I thought the players moved the ball well and to be fair, our game plan worked. I’m not getting carried away with the result today, just like I didn’t get carried away last weekend either.
“But today, we showed the resilience needed to win a football match. We’re going to need that a lot this season because we’re going to have tough, difficult games. We need to be up for it every time.”
The whole team embodied that resilience desired by Flynn as the Exiles secured their first home Football League victory against the Railwaymen since 1978.
Speaking about the squad, Flynn added: “The difficult thing was we had five who didn’t train all week. Two of those five were involved today so it’s always tough when you haven’t trained all week.
“Especially when one of them is 34-years old - Andrew Crofts - who I thought was absolutely outstanding today.
“He ran the midfield, covered every blade of grass and that’s a credit to how well he looks after himself. It was massive [having Andrew in the side.] He was outstanding, as I thought Matty Dolan was as-well.
“Josh Sheehan got into some good areas and was better than he was last week. He’s a confidence player and he knows how much I think of him. I tell him that every day.
“I’m sure he’ll keep on getting better and better – Fraser Franks, Mickey Demetriou and Scot Bennett were also absolutely outstanding.
“I thought they were such a good unit and that’s credit to them.”
Flynn did, however, select one player for individual praise after a scintillating display from the forward.
Mark Harris – making his debut for the club after joining on loan from Cardiff City – ran his heart into the ground from the first whistle and chased every ball down with intensity to get territory for the Exiles.
Flynn said on the 19-year old: “I thought he was outstanding.
“He ran himself into the ground, always looked a threat on the attack but he did get tired. That’s what the squad and the bench is for, we mixed it up a bit and I thought everybody played their part today from the goalkeeper to the substitutes. And the boys who supported them even though they weren’t in the squad.
“That’s the kind of resilience we need to show because we’ve shown today that we can do it.”
In terms of areas to improve upon following the first victory of the season, Flynn has set his side the challenge of becoming more ruthless in-front of goal.
He continued: “I still think we maybe could have killed them off in the first-half. It was a very good display from ourselves and it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t get some more goals.
“I want us to be a bit more ruthless and we were [ruthless] in our own box because we snuffed them out. We need to do that in their box too, we just need to finish those chances, be on the move and then hopefully I can then relax a bit more before the end of games on the touchline.”
Flynn will now concentrate on getting his squad prepared to go again on Tuesday night when they travel to fellow League Two outfit Cambridge United for a Carabao Cup First Round tie.
The Exiles faced the U’s on three occasions last season – winning every single one of those meetings – but Flynn is expecting another tough challenge at the Abbey Stadium.
“Cambridge is always a tough place to go,” he stated.
“It’s always a hard place to go and play football, it’ll be a difficult challenge, but we just have to be up for it like we were today.”
In terms of team-news for that tie in Cambridgeshire, Flynn is expecting to be without a couple of members from his squad.
But he also confirmed that he has received clearance for all the County loan players to participate in the competition, and he may use the game as an opportunity to rotate his squad.
He confirmed: “Keanu has a knee injury, but he should be okay for Tuesday. Robbie and Mark are still doubtful.
“There will be a few changes because I think people need games to get them up to speed.
“It won’t be to weaken the team or rest a few. For example, Pipey was struggling at the end today so he’ll probably miss Tuesday, but it gives somebody else the chance now to get up to match pace.
“[In terms of the loan players] I’m sure they’ve all been given clearance – if not, I’m going to get in trouble!
“As I’ve said, it’s a difficult place to go but if we can get through that then hopefully – without looking ahead too much – we can get a good draw in the next round.”
NEXT UP| We are on the road at Cambridge United for the first round of the Carabao Cup.
AFTER THAT | We are heading to Exeter City. Get your tickets here.
NEXT UP AT HOME | We face Notts County on Tuesday 21st August.