Mike Flynn says he was “over the moon” to see his Newport County AFC side continue their perfect start to 2018 following a 2-1 away victory at Grimsby Town.
After withstanding some intense Grimsby pressure in the opening exchanges, it was County who took what was a surprise lead through Robbie Willmott’s second successive league goal on 19 minutes.
It came after some intricate passing through the middle by several County players, Dolan, Amond and Nouble all creating space, before allowing Scot Bennett to shield the ball into Willmott’s path, who turned his marker and fired powerfully into Jake Kean’s near post from just outside the area.
And from there until half-time, the Exiles were mightily unlucky to not have a greater advantage leading into half-time.
Joss Labadie and Dan Butler both saw chances cleared off the goal-line by Ben Davies, while Padraig Amond’s clever chipped attempt from 20 yards was hooked away by Zak Mills.
But for all County’s dominance in the first-half, that lead could have been vanquished just ten minutes into the second-half as Scott Vernon came within an inch of an equaliser.
Another world class save from Joe Day prevented that strike, this time leaping across his goal to stop the shot with a fingertip save as it looked destined to nestle into the bottom corner.
And that save became even more important as County doubled their advantage within 15 seconds of the resulting corner.
Day collected the delivery calmly before launching a throw towards half-way to Dan Butler. The left-back then chipped a delightful ball into Nouble’s path, who turned his man on the corner of the box before his attempt deflected in off Karleigh Osborne and into the net.
But the home side weren’t done there, however, and found a way back into the contest with ten to play, Jamille Matt heading home from two yards after Day had saved the original attempt.
Matt was then sent off for what seemed to be a leading elbow on Mickey Demetriou, as County held on for another impressive away victory.
And Flynn was delighted with the attitude from his players post-match.
“I’m over the moon,” he affirmed.
“For the majority of the game, it was a very good away performance.
“We sat back a little bit too much towards the end for my liking and we missed way too many chances. We should have been comfortable at four or five up and that’s credit to the boys for how well they did today.”
The victory in Lincolnshire provided the perfect tonic for the side after their FA Cup heroics against Leeds United last weekend.
And Flynn feels a good cup run and a good league season could go hand-in-hand for his side this year.
“It’s momentum and its winning football matches,” he continued.
“It’s good habits and doing the right things day in day out. Look, I’ve got a fantastic group here and they have been superb.
“I have got a great bunch and I told them before the game that it is a joy for me to be their manager.
“They always keep me on my toes, but they give me everything they have got day in day out and I can’t ask for more than that.
“That was a big, big win today because it could have been an FA Cup hangover, but it wasn’t.”
Despite the deflection on the attempt, Nouble’s original attempt looked likely to be heading in anyway and therefore can be credited to the striker.
That means it is Nouble’s first goal since netting at Accrington Stanley on 18th November and takes him to eight goals for the campaign.
But Flynn preferred to talk about the superb build-up play from the Exiles for both goals at Blundell Park post-match.
“It was a great passage of play for Robbie’s goal and so was Frank’s,” he stated.
“Listen, I’ve told them that if you don’t shoot, you can’t score. And it was going on target so it’s definitely Frank’s goal.”
Mere seconds before County took that two-goal lead, it could have been all so different had it not been for that stunning save from Day.
And Flynn was ecstatic to see his goalkeeper produce yet another contender for his save of the season competition.
“It’s outstanding,” he said.
“That’s what he’s there for and that’s why he’s the best goalkeeper in the league. He was outstanding.”
Jamille Matt’s late consolation for the home side took him to five goals against the Exiles, having netted on four occasions during his spell with Kidderminster Harriers.
His later dismissal would evidently tarnish over his first goal for nearly two months, a strike which was only his third of the season for the Mariners.
And Flynn thought the referee made the correct decision with the sending off.
“I thought he caught him,” he admitted.
“I’ve got to be honest and I don’t think he did it intentionally.
“I don’t like players getting sent off, but I was glad when he did because he was a handful, he always manages to score against us.”
That late dismissal, twinned with numerous substitutions and injury breaks, led to referee Graham Salisbury indicating eight additional minutes of time added on at the end of the game.
And Flynn thought his players showed a true fighting belief to withstand the late pressure from the home side and secure all three points.
He added: “I think we are showing a character and resilience now that will hold us in good stead.
“Look there were worries when we were conceding in a couple of games consecutively late on, but that’s a thing of the past now.
“We were good today against a Grimsby team who threw everything at it.”
The Exiles now have six days to rest and recover before returning to Rodney Parade for Friday night football against Crawley Town.
And Flynn confirmed his substitutions in Lincolnshire were made with the upcoming games in mind, as it was imperative to keep everybody fit for the forthcoming games.
He continued: “Joss Labadie had to come off, as did Matty Dolan and Robbie Willmott who all had stiff hamstrings funnily because we’ve been good in that department this season.
“It is what it is, a long journey and with the efforts that they put in, we just have to be careful with them.
“But I thought Tyler came on and did very well, Shawn worked his socks off again and Ben Tozer slotted in, so it was good.”
Mark O’Brien missed out completely from the matchday squad in the only County change from the starting team or the bench.
And Flynn admitted that the Irishman sustained a slight knock in training this week and was rested as a precautionary measure.
He confirmed: “Mark picked up a little knock in training after he got kicked by his housemate Mickey Demetriou.
“His knee swelled up, so we had to do it for a precaution.
“There’s a game on Friday and next Tuesday so it’s a chance to get some fitness into the ones who recently came in.”
O’Brien’s absence afforded Aaron Collins the chance to take his position on the substitutes bench for the first time since rejoining the club having been cup-tied for last weekend’s game.
And Flynn acknowledged that he was extremely close to giving Collins his first minutes in a County shirt since 18th January 2016.
He said: “To be honest I’ve just said to Aaron that if it had stayed at 2-0 then I would have put him on just to get some minutes into his legs.
“It is what it is, the boys dug in and held on and like I’ve said, we should have scored a lot more today.”
NEXT UP| It's Crawley Town at home. Kick off 7.45pm on 19th January 2018 at Rodney Parade. Get Tickets Today.
AFTER THAT| We welcome Morecambe to Rodney Parade on Tuesday 23rd January 2018.
EMIRATES FA CUP| It's a Fourth Round Tie vs Tottenham Hotspur who will come to Rodney Parade on the 27th January; 5.30pm kick off.