Josh Sheehan’s first goal of the campaign saw Newport County AFC return to winning ways in League Two after a 3-1 victory against Northampton Town at Rodney Parade.
Sheehan’s superb curling effort from just outside the area gave County the lead on five minutes, Northampton striker Andy Williams levelled shortly after, but some super play and goals from Jamille Matt and Padraig Amond secured the Exiles a more than deserved victory.
The victory puts County back up to fourth in the League Two table and only outside the automatic promotion spots on goal difference, whilst the gap to the teams searching for a play-off berth has increased to a healthy four point cushion.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that fell to a 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham Town on Saturday at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
After admitting he got his team selection wrong in Gloucestershire, Flynn reverted back to the 3-4-1-2 formation that has worked ever so effectively this season.
Captain Andrew Crofts was rewarded for his superb 45-minute cameo against the Robins with a first start since late August, with the midfielder well and truly over the worst of his nightmare spell on the side-lines.
Mark O’Brien also overcame a niggly injury problem to start from the off, whilst Josh Sheehan also came back in as the advanced midfielder in the trio.
Charlie Cooper, Cameron Pring and Antoine Semenyo all fell to the bench.
Northampton Town manager Keith Curle made just one change to his side that conceded a scrappy goal towards the end of the 2-2 home draw with Grimsby Town last time out.
That saw Jordan Turnbull replaced by Hakeem Odoffin, as the visitors went for a slightly bizarre formation at Rodney Parade and fielded a 4-1-2-1-2 system.
Both teams showed great intent from the off and in arguably the best opening 45 minutes of the season, County were immense in offence and built up a healthy advantage before the break.
Throughout the first-half, Crofts’ magnificent vision with looping through balls into the channels worked to advantageous effect and helped the Exiles take the lead after just five minutes.
Another exceptional pass found Butler free on the left-side and when he skipped past the challenge of away captain David Buchanan to drill a ball across the area, Josh Sheehan was there to curl into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The confidence that goal gave Sheehan was obvious to see, the midfielder having failed to score this season before the sumptuous finish, and the midfield trio were controlling the game quite comfortably in the preliminary stages.
But Northampton possess a team full of aerial threat and they found their equaliser with just 11 minutes of the contest played. Buchanan’s ball was knocked down by Kevin Van Veen and Andy Williams smashed into the far corner on the turn.
The intensity from both teams was clear to see as they tried to really get a foothold in the game and Tyreeq Bakinson then Sam Foley traded shots before the completion of 18 minutes.
Williams then missed a free header when he worked some space between Demetriou and Franks – and that would ultimately come back to haunt the visitors as County took command.
Some of the football was simply sublime, the return of Crofts evident for all to see, and Jamille Matt grabbed his 12th goal of the season on 29 minutes.
Dan Butler’s floated free-kick from wide went all the way to the far post and when Mark O’Brien rose highest to meet the delivery to head it across the face of goal, Matt had the simplest of jobs to send it on its way into the back of the net.
You can talk about all the amazing and scintillating play from the Exiles in the opening half hour but the passage of play for the third goal might just top the lot.
We’ve had the 14-pass nine-man move for Amond’s goal at Cambridge United in the Carabao Cup, then it was a 15-pass and 35 touch goal at FGR from the Irishman – and it seems Amond likes to finish off the sumptuous goal and he netted on 33 minutes.
Some nice interchange on the left-side eventually set Bakinson through on goal, the pass into Amond was superb and the finish was even better – no goalkeeper in the world could have saved it as it ended up in the roof of the net with a first-time finish.
Three minutes of added time were indicated at the end of a superb attacking half from the Exiles, but no further moments of magic could be produced before the whistle.
The second-half didn’t quite start off in the same manner as the first 45 minutes as the game quietened down to a much more manageable pace, although the Exiles weren’t sitting back trying to defend the lead, they were going for more goals and O’Brien almost smashed a volley on goal, but it was blocked.
Northampton’s substitutes in Billy Waters and Daniel Powell couldn’t provide the visitors any rest bite in the game as County continued to press, Matt thwarted by the legs of Cornell on 71 minutes.
The visitors did end the contest on the front foot, Powell seeing a shot blocked off the line by Franks and then denied by a goal saving tackle from O’Brien.
That was enough for the Exiles to secure a more than deserved victory – some much-needed confidence ahead of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie at Wrexham.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Butler, Demetriou, O’Brien, Franks, Pipe, Crofts (C), Bakinson, Sheehan, Matt (Semenyo 82’), Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Harris, Foulston, Pring, Cooper, Collins
Northampton Town (4-1-2-1-2): Cornell, Buchanan (C), Taylor, Pierre, Odoffin, O’Toole (Waters 45’), McWilliams, Foley, Van Veen (Powell 62’), Hoskins (Roberts 85’), Williams
Subs not used: Ward, Turnbull, Bridge, Williams
Referee: Andy Davies
Attendance: 2,730 (214 AWAY)
Next up for County: Wrexham (Saturday 1st December 2018)