Newport County AFC have moved back into the automatic promotion places in League Two after beating high-flying Colchester United 2-0 at Rodney Parade.
Second half goals from Jamille Matt and Cameron Pring were enough for County to use the momentum from their recent cup exploits to get back to winning ways in League Two, leapfrogging their visitors with all three points.
The Exiles stay five points off the top, although the league has a new leader in MK Dons, but it goes to show how tight it is at the top as County are only five points clear of Forest Green Rovers in 10th.
For the first time this season, Mike Flynn elected to name a straightforward 4-4-2 formation at Rodney Parade and made five changes from Tuesday’s CheckaTrade Trophy victory to accommodate for the change in formation.
Joe Day came back in between the sticks, with Mickey Demetriou also restored alongside Fraser Franks, Dan Butler and David Pipe in a four-man defence.
Matty Dolan returned to the centre of midfield to partner Tyreeq Bakinson, while Robbie Willmott and Antoine Semenyo found themselves on each wing respectively.
Padraig Amond and Jamille Matt led the line for the Exiles as they looked to build on their two positives results in the respective cup competitions in the past seven days.
Colchester United manager John McGreal made four changes from his sides CheckaTrade Trophy exploits in midweek and named three former Exiles in his matchday squad.
With talisman Luke Norris still struggling with some injury problems, Frank Nouble was tasked with solely leading the line for the away side, while Ryan Jackson also started, and Aaron Collins found himself on the bench.
Both meetings between the clubs in the 2017/18 campaign were played out in rather dire circumstances in the first-half, and unfortunately, this meeting also followed that pattern with little to choose between the sides in the opening 45 minutes.
Colchester United looked very happy to dictate the play when controlling most of the first-half possession, 53% in total although it felt like more, but the resilient County defence nullified any attacking threat from Nouble, Sammie Szmodics and Courtney Senior.
On his return to Rodney Parade, Nouble did get one sighting of goal in the opening stages, but Joe Day had clearly been observing the striker in training last season and was already over to hold the attempt by the time he had shot.
Other than that, Day’s goal was hardly ever tested, as County looked adept in their new-found formation for this particular fixture.
County’s greatest attacking threat came from the effervescent Robbie Willmott when controlling his wing ahead of U's full-back Kane Vincent-Young, but he was unfortunately forced to withdraw just after the half-hour with a hamstring injury.
Before his unfortunate injury, Willmott’s cross produced County’s inaugural shot on target after 29 minutes, but Dillion Barnes was a relieved man when Mickey Demetriou’s header looped gratefully into his grasp.
Antoine Semenyo’s dazzling feet almost produced another sighting at goal for the Exiles, but after dropping the shoulder and working some space past Diaz Wright, Frankie Kent recovered his compatriot and got in a vital interception.
Interestingly, the first-half came and went without a single corner-kick to either side, but the second half certainly started on a better footing with four in the opening five minutes.
Three of them went to Colchester but the U’s actually looked more threatening from County’s set-piece and David Pipe had to take one for the team and receive a booking when halting a quick breakaway.
That clear distinction in the number of corners achieved by both sides early on in the second-half meant it was almost written in the stars that the opener would come from that set-piece.
And it was as County took the lead after 54 minutes.
Matty Dolan’s delivery from the right was inch perfect into the area, and when Padraig Amond rose highest to beautifully head across the goal line, his strike partner Jamille Matt was there to grab his 11th goal of the campaign.
Tom Lapslie wasted a good attempt at a volley as Colchester looked to respond, bringing on powerhouse Mikael Mandron as well, but County were brimming with confidence and duly doubled the lead on 67 minutes.
Willmott’s replacement Cameron Pring started and finished the move which tore apart the U’s defence like it was nothing, Tyreeq Bakinson eventually feeding his fellow Bristol City loanee and the left-back finished it like a potent striker.
Ryan Gondoh’s introduction for the visitors with 15 minutes to go did spark some life into their attack and Dolan was a relieved man to see his charge down by Senior rebound off the crossbar.
On the counter-attack, Semenyo tested the flexibility of Barnes in the away goal, with the Exiles still dictating the play and barely giving Colchester any chance at a comeback.
It cannot be underestimated just how superb Amond was even if he didn’t hit the target himself, his off the ball running was immense, and his tracking back to help in defence meant he cleared Nouble’s scuffed shot off the goal line.
In stoppage time, Pring almost got his second of the afternoon after some dazzling footwork from substitute Mark Harris, but he hit the underside of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
That was all for the action at Rodney Parade – County continuing their winning run with all three points against their high-flying counterparts.
Newport County AFC (4-4-2): Day, Pipe, Franks, Demetriou (C), Butler, Willmott (Pring 34’), Dolan (O’Brien 90’), Bakinson, Semenyo (Harris 86’), Matt, Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Sheehan, Hillman, Cooper
Colchester United (4-2-3-1): Barnes, Jackson, Kent, Prosser (C), Vincent-Young, Lapslie (Gondoh 76’), Wright, Senior (Collins 80’), Szmodics, Dickenson (Mandron 58’), Nouble
Subs not used: James, Chilvers, Ross, Kensdale
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 3,512 (231 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cheltenham Town (24th November) AWAY