Victory over play-off contenders Exeter City proves that Newport County AFC have what it takes to finish in League 2’s top seven, according to Exiles striker Padraig Amond.
Amond actually gave the Exiles the lead in just the sixth minute at Rodney Parade, scoring his second header in three days after looping Robbie Willmott’s delivery into the back of the net.
But after Dan Butler had superbly cleared Lloyd James’ attempt off the goal-line, the visitors did grab their equaliser eight minutes after half-time.
Grecians striker Jayden Stockley replicated Amond’s effort with a header of his own, powerfully glancing Jake Taylor’s cross past Joe Day.
Both sides created further opportunities as the game went on, and the Exiles were rewarded for their efforts as Robbie Willmott scored his first goal of the season with 25 minutes left.
Amond played a backheeled pass to Dan Butler out-wide, who perfectly set-up Willmott with a weighted pass to thunder home into the bottom right corner from 25 yards.
Post-match, the Irishman spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about the first home league win in over three months, how the side are preparing for the massive Emirates FA Cup tie with Leeds United on Sunday and what he thinks County fans can expect from the side in 2018.
On the Exeter game…
“We made it really hard for ourselves.
“I thought we started really well and played the conditions in the first-half.
“I don’t know if you could tell from the stand or whatever, but it was horrible out there. The wind was so strong and when Joe was kicking in the first-half, it wasn’t even getting to the halfway line and stuff like that.
“So we had to get off to a good start and thankfully we did. We scored early-on and it’s a pity that we couldn’t get a second one. Labz hit the post just before I scored so it was a pity because I think a second goal would have killed the game completely.
“And we didn’t really come out in the second-half. We made things very difficult for ourselves but luckily Robbie scored a great goal at the end to win it for us.
“The final five or ten minutes were obviously a bit nervy, they put the big man Reuben Reid on as-well, so it was always going to be a tough game to grind out.
“It’s a great three points for us.”
On handling the blustery conditions at Rodney Parade…
“We came out knowing that we were at home so as the home team you want to set the tempo.
“We felt especially at half-time that they were playing a lot of long balls in the first-half and they were just going straight out of play.
“And we knew we had to learn from that because if we did that in the second-half then the ball would keep going out of play again.
“But like I say, we didn’t get started in the second-half. In the first half, we were very good and then when we finally got into it in the second-half we were well worth the victory despite Joe having to make some very good saves.”
On his second goal in two games…
“Matty’s taken a quick free-kick into Pipey, Frank lays it off to Robbie and he has put in a great ball into the area.
“I just got in-front of the front man and looped it over the goalkeeper and it was just like the weekend, as soon as I headed it, I knew it was going in.
“I didn’t even look to see if the ball hit the back of the net because I was already away celebrating.
“I have a couple of friends over from Ireland, so I went to find them in the crowd who were there with my missus and stuff like that, so it was pleasing to score while they are here.
“I’ve bided my time over the December period and thankfully I’ve got back in the last two games and scored two goals.”
On Robbie Willmott’s match-winner…
“Robbie Willmott is a fantastic player.
“He’s the same as me a little bit in that he’s been in and out of the team recently, been biding his time and he’s taken his chance in the last two games.
“He’s got a goal and an assist today, so you can’t really ask for too much more.
“The goal is brilliant. I just don’t know what he’s doing with the celebration!
“He’s a bit of a character around the place but you need people like that in and around the squad to keep morale up when things might not be going as well as they are.
“To be honest with you, that is typical Robbie with the celebration.
“The only surprise for me was that he didn’t try and jump in and clap himself or something like that.
“That is just typical Robbie, a little bit weird but we all love him.”
On facing Leeds United in the Emirates FA Cup…
“I was at the game [at Elland Road in the Carabao Cup] to meet everybody that night.
“It was a fantastic performance from the team and it should never have been 5-1. It probably should have been 5-5 maybe and I was excited by what I saw.
“They are going to be very tough to beat but it’s a great tie for the club.
“Leeds are a massive club, always have been in England and I’m sure they are going to bring a lot of vocal fans on the weekend.
“They will want to win the game and they’ll probably see it as a banana-skin really.
“We have to make sure that we put ourselves about the place and try to get something out of it.
“Leeds obviously have a lot of talented players. It’s quite hard to single out anybody really because they are multi-million-pound players every single one of them.
“It’s going to be a brilliant day. When you get this place full, it can make a lot of noise as we saw the last few games of last year.
“It can suck a goal in really at any stage of the game but look, it’s a game we’re really looking forward to and the FA Cup is made for scalps so let’s hope it’s us on the weekend.
“We’ll do all our homework on them ready to make sure we give a good account of ourselves on Sunday. It’s a free shot really because there’s no pressure on us.
“All the pressure is on them so hopefully we can get a good performance and a good result from the game.”
On the expectations of the side for 2018…
“The play-offs are the aim I suppose.
“We’re not a million miles away from the automatic places I don’t think either, so we just need to get some consistency and win the games that we should be winning.
“If we keep grinding out results like we did today, then who knows where we could go. It’s a good start to 2018 so let’s see what happens, we know we are talented enough and it’s just about seeing where it takes us in the next six months.
“We could have had more already because I suppose over Christmas if you win two and lose two then you get more points.
“We’ve ground out two draws, maybe unlucky not to get another two points against Cheltenham but look, we are where we are.
“We’re there or thereabouts with the play-offs and unfortunately, when we win everyone else seems to win.
“We don’t move up when we win that often really. When we lost against Wycombe, I think we actually moved up a position, so we’ll have to work hard in trying to get results and then hopefully we’ll shoot up into the play-offs.”