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REPORT| Exiles back to winning ways after victory at Yeovil Town

10 March 2018

Josh Sheehan scored his first goal since a permanent return to Newport County AFC to help the Exiles secure their first win in 10 matches with a 2-0 victory at Yeovil Town.

The goals followed what had been a rather scrappy affair in the first-half, no clear-cut chances being created by either side, much more of a midfield battle at Huish Park.

But Sheehan ensured that he would have a share of the headlines against his former side, scoring his first goal for the Exiles in 420 days having re-joined permanently in the January window.

It came after 57 minutes and was the product of some clever play out-wide from the Exiles.

Robbie Willmott played a cutting pass into Ben White’s path well out on the right-hand side, with the 20-year old providing the perfect delivery for Sheehan to burst into the area and curl the chance into the far corner from eight yards.

The second came with mere seconds remaining in Somerset, Paul Hayes getting his just rewards from an inspired performance, slotting home the opportunity from ten yards after County launched a quick counter-attack with the home side searching for an equaliser.

That first victory since 19th January sees the Exiles rise two places in the League 2 table and up to 11th place, while closing the gap on the play-offs to just five points with ten games remaining.

Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that shared a six-goal thriller with Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday night at Rodney Parade.

Both of those changes came in defence, as David Pipe and Mark O’Brien missed out completely from the matchday team through injury.

That saw Joss Labadie make his return to the County side after a two-match suspension for accruing 10 yellow cards, while Josh Sheehan came back into the team after some late substitute appearances in recent matches.

Despite the incoming County players not specifically being defenders, the Exiles remained in their 3-5-2 formation from the off at Huish Park. Robbie Willmott dropped back to right wing-back in place of Pipe, while Ben Tozer filled in at centre-back for O’Brien.

Scot Bennett made a surprise appearance on the bench for the Exiles after recovering ahead of schedule from the hamstring injury suffered at Mansfield Town last month.  

Yeovil Town manager Darren Way also made two changes to his side that last played on Tuesday, although it was heartbreak for the Glovers on the night as they missed out on a game at Wembley with a defeat to Shrewsbury Town in the CheckaTrade Trophy semi-final.

Both of those changes came in midfield, as Jared Bird was dropped to the bench while Oscar Gobern missed out completely on the day.

Middlesbrough loanee Lewis Wing came in as part of the 4-3-3 formation being utilised by the home side, while Sam Surridge completed the changes from a Yeovil perspective.

It was certainly a positive start from the Exiles in the opening 10 minutes, certainly having the majority of the early possession and producing some inviting deliveries into the area, although couldn’t quite fashion any real opportunities to test Jonathan Maddison in the home goal.  

And the Glovers almost punished County shortly after for not getting something from their positive start, with Joe Day having to produce two smart saves in a matter of seconds.

Connor Smith almost caught County unawares with a speculative free-kick from 40 yards, only for Day to just about read it and tip it wide, before recovering to deny Omar Sowunmi’s header from the resulting corner kick.  

County were certainly controlling the ascendency in the first-half hour of the contest even if not specifically creating any clear-cut chances, with the game generally turning into a midfield battle in Somerset.    

But Yeovil always had the menacing frame of Sowunmi to rely on from set-pieces, and Day twice had to leap above the centre-back and punch clear to thwart an opening goal from the home side.

A quick attack from County on 35 minutes almost created what would have been the first real chance of the game, although Thomas James tracked back well to prevent Paul Hayes’ pass from the edge of the area which had looked destined for an unmarked Amond in the centre.

The resulting corner did allow County to finally test Maddison in the home goal, however, although the shot-shopper read the situation confidently to tip the headed attempt from Amond over the crossbar.

Not even the indication of one additional minute added time at the end of the first-half could transpire into a further chance from either side as the two teams headed back to the dressing rooms goalless.

You would have to say that County had the ascendency if any in the first-half, certainly a scrappy affair from the two teams in general at Huish Park, with very few goal-scoring opportunities being produced in Somerset.

Mickey Demetriou was certainly one of the standout players from a County perspective during the first 45 minutes, marshalling the defence with confidence and ensuring that Day didn’t have too much to do in the County goal.

Hayes and Amond were linking up well with each other on occasion, although didn’t really have the best of service as Sowunmi looked like he was always in the right place at the right time to clear the long balls into the final third.

Yeovil boss Darren Way was also happy to allow his towering centre-half to have the freedom of the Huish Park pitch when required, sprinting 40+ yards on several occasions, whilst also being the clear target from any set-pieces.

The first chance of the second half also fell the way of County just 20 seconds in, although Hayes couldn’t quite get the right connection to the cross and sent a header clear of the crossbar.   

It was turning into an end-to-end affair at Huish Park as both sides looked to provide the creative spark that was needed in the contest, with a chance falling the way of each team within the space of 60 seconds from the 52nd minute.

Sam Surridge fired wide for Yeovil when he perhaps could have squared the chance to an onrushing Francois Zoko, while Demetriou’s header for County was an easy hold for Maddison in the home goal.    

You could sense a goal was coming from either side and it was the Exiles to get it after 57 minutes.

Willmott played a superb overlapping pass into White’s path on the right-hand side, with White providing an inch perfect cross into the area for Josh Sheehan to curl into the far corner from eight yards.

The chances just continued to come at Huish Park as Yeovil went in search of an instant reply, and Day had to make a smart save to deny Zoko after the striker had worked some space inside the area.

Day could have the League 2 save of the season contest all to himself this year after some truly remarkable saves, this next wonder stop coming in the 67th minute.

Zoko was again the man to be denied with a header from eight yards, the County goalkeeper somehow launching himself to the floor to not only get a hand to it, but also push it away from the danger area.  

On the counter-attack, County twice had chances to extend their lead by the time 80 minutes had elapsed in the contest, although on both occasions, Hayes and substitute Frank Nouble couldn’t get the attempts on target to test Maddison.

You would have to say that Yeovil were having the majority of possession at this stage, although the County defence were certainly responding to that pressure and thwarting a lot of the chances.

The indication of four minutes added time gave the home side the extra license to push forward and try to force an equaliser, Sowunmi coming ever so close to connecting to a cross from Zoko.

But County secured their first win since 19th January through a late effort from Hayes, who coolly dispatched the opportunity when found unmarked in the area following a quick counter-attack from Nouble.


County: Day, Butler, Demetriou, Tozer, White, Willmott (Collins 84’), Dolan (Bennett 80’), Labadie (C), Sheehan, Amond (Nouble 56’), Hayes

Subs not used: Bittner, Jackson, McCoulsky, Reid


Yeovil:  Maddison; Whelan, Sowunmi, James, Dickson; C. Smith, Surridge (Barnes 58’), Wing, Green (Browne 70’), Zoko (C), Khan (Fisher 78’)  

Subs not used: Bird, Mugabi, Nelson, Donnellan


Referee: Lee Collins

Attendance: 2,880 (439 AWAY)

Next up for County: Luton Town (17th March 2018)

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