Mike Flynn heaped praise on his entire Newport County AFC side after they returned back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory away at Yeovil Town.
Both of the County goals came in a second 45 minutes that followed an uninspiring first-half, whereby neither side could really create a meaningful chance at goal.
But the Exiles certainly provided the creative spark that the game so dearly craved at Huish Park in a much better second-half, scoring the opener after 57 minutes following some clever play out-wide.
Robbie Willmott played a splitting pass towards the corner flag for Ben White to get hold of, with the 20-year old drilling an inch perfect cross into the area for an onrushing Josh Sheehan to curl home first-time into the far corner from eight yards.
That was Sheehan’s first goal for the Exiles in 420 days after re-joining the side on a permanent basis in the January window, with the victory confirmed in the dying seconds by another January addition in Paul Hayes.
It came after Yeovil had thrown everything at the County goal in search of a late equaliser, as captain Joss Labadie played a high ball into the path of substitute Frank Nouble, who unselfishly squared the opportunity for Hayes to take a touch and coolly dispatch the opportunity into the bottom corner.
That goal confirmed County’s first three-point haul in League 2 since 19th January, something Flynn was pleased to achieve during the game at Huish Park.
“Yeah, I’m very thrilled,” he affirmed.
“It’s nice to get a win, it’s been a long time coming, and we should have won the previous two as-well.”
Such was the manner of victory in Somerset by the Exiles that it was certainly a whole-team performance to secure all three points and very difficult to specifically pick out individual players for praise.
And while Flynn also agreed with that sentiment post-match, he did select a few players when asked to pick out the top performers from a County perspective.
He stated: “I can pick a few out really but I thought Ben White was exceptional, even when he went to right-back.
“Paul Hayes was outstanding and obviously it was nice to see Josh Sheehan come back in the team and get a goal.
“I thought Josh started slowly and faded at the end but in the middle part he was looking dangerous, especially when he got on the ball. And you can see that he has got a lot stronger.
“Mickey Demetriou as-well because I thought he was as solid as a rock all afternoon and when he’s like that, he’s one of the best defenders in the league.
“Going back to Hayesy, look he was brilliant. He’s my kind of professional footballer. He does all the horrible stuff, got a good footballing brain and I just wish he had more minutes in those legs of his.”
The victory most certainly couldn’t have been secured without the exploits of County goalkeeper Joe Day.
One decisive save came in the 67th minute with the score still at 1-0. Glovers striker Francois Zoko lept highest to powerfully connect to a cross into the area, only for Day to launch himself to the ground and get a hand to the header, not only saving the attempt but diverting the ball away from the danger area.
And Flynn made sure he mentioned his shot-shopper post-match.
He continued: “I’ve just said in there [the dressing room] that he made a crucial save at a crucial time of the game.
“It was an outstanding save down low to his right-hand side. And a good save from their quick free-kick in the first-half.
“He had to be there, but he still made the save.”
That particular save encompassed a few that Day had to make during the game in Somerset.
But throughout the game, the Exiles defence held out resolutely and thwarted much of the Yeovil attacking threat.
That was another positive for Flynn from the game, with the Exiles securing a league double over the Glovers for the first time in the Football League with 2-0 victories both home and away.
He added: “I thought on the whole, they attacked and defended very well.
“We didn’t panic. I know they had that cross across the front of the goal, the quick free-kick and the one that Joe saved, but other than that I can’t remember too much else.
“There might have been one or two more, but I think we created more chances and we probably should have scored a few more like I keep saying.”
The victory at Huish Park saw the Exiles move back into the top half of the League 2 table and up two places to 11th, while also closing the gap on the play-off places to just five points with ten games still left to play.
Seven of the remaining matches come at Rodney Parade, something Flynn feels could help his side in their quest for a top-seven place.
He affirmed: “Last season, we were 11 points behind with 12 games to play - we were eight points behind [the play-offs] with 11 games to play before today.
“Look, we’ve only been beaten three times in 25 games at home since I’ve been here and there’s a lot to look forward to.
“I’m not getting carried away by one win, we’ve closed the gap like we set out to do, and we have to go and back it up next week.”
Flynn celebrated a year in charge of the Exiles on Friday, with this victory securing him the same result as on his first game, when the Exiles won at Crewe Alexandra last season.
Reflecting on one year in charge of the Exiles, he said: “It’s been enjoyable, exciting, stressful. I’ve gone greyer and put on a bit of weight.
“But it’s been enjoyable. It’s what I want to do, what I love doing and it’s what my passion is.
“And when they put that shift in, even if it would have finished 0-0 today, the shift they put in today, the few chances they created, we played a bit better football today.
“We could have easily tried to shut the game up at 1-0 but I put Aaron Collins on.
“Sometimes it’s human nature that the boys sit back, but that is definitely not my instructions.”
Flynn had to secure that anniversary victory without his defensive duo of Mark O’Brien and David Pipe.
The injuries don’t appear too severe for either player, however, with Flynn confident of a return for the pair ahead of next week’s home game with Luton Town.
He confirmed: “Pipey had stomach cramps on Wednesday and he had them quite bad.
“I think it was some sort of reaction to the tablets he took on Saturday when he dislocated his finger. He couldn’t sprint, and we knew that we wanted to attack them today. Robbie is a bit more forward thinking as a wing-back so there was no point risking Pipey.
“And Mark O’Brien still has a stiff hamstring. Again, I’m not going to rule him out for six weeks because you can see that Ben Tozer can do just as a good a job when needed.”
NEXT UP| We face Luton Town at Rodney Parade on St Patrick's Day. Get tickets today.
AFTER THAT| It's Footy for a Fiver when we take on Crewe Alexandra. Get tickets here.
HAT-TRICK OF HOME GAMES| It's a third home match in a row for County when we take on Coventry City at home on Good Friday. Get tickets here.