Mike Flynn once again hailed the character and togetherness of his Newport County AFC squad as they struck in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 victory over Stevenage at Rodney Parade.
As well as that perfectly timed finale, County also started the contest on the correct note when finding the target after just 46 seconds.
Matty Dolan made a blistering early impact on proceedings, playing a one-two with Tyreeq Bakinson on the edge-of-the-area and when the ball sat up invitingly, Dolan didn’t need a second invitation to thump a spectacular strike into the top corner.
The swirling conditions at Rodney Parade certainly made it hard for both sides and very few other chances could be created in the first-half, but Stevenage did find an equaliser with the only other shot on target during the opening 45 minutes.
Some good interchange down the left-side saw Steve Seddon whip an inviting delivery into the area and when Luther James-Wildin ghosted in behind the County defence, the right-back headed back across goal and into the far corner.
In the second-half, Jamille Matt, Mickey Demetriou and Dan Butler all stung the palms of Stevenage goalkeeper Seny Dieng but it looked like County might have to settle for a point.
That was until Antoine Semenyo’s divine intervention with 98 minutes on the clock. The 18-year old picked up the ball after Demetriou saw a shot blocked, taking one touch to set himself before firing past Dieng to send Rodney Parade into rapture.
That saw County score the earliest goal of the day in the Football League and also one of the last as well – the perfect mixture in the view of Flynn.
He affirmed: “Yeah it is [the perfect way to win a game.] We’ve scored right at the beginning of the game and right at the death of the game.
“I didn’t think we were quite at our best today but to be able to beat a good Stevenage team when you’re not at your best shows how far we’ve come and how far we can go.
“That is a massive, massive win and I’m absolutely delighted for the players as well.”
Due to those swirling conditions throughout both halves but especially in the opening 45 minutes, both sides struggled to get a clear foothold in proceedings and shared the majority of the play.
Reflecting on the game as a whole, Flynn said: “I thought we started really well, not just because of the goal, but I thought we started really well.
“But then in the last 15 minutes of the first-half, I thought Stevenage were the better team. I thought they were switching the play quite well, they seemed like without doing much that they were slightly the better team.
“And in the second-half, I thought we were by far the better team without being great.
“We made things hard for them, Jamille Matt ran his socks off, he was a real handful today and he made it difficult. The Stevenage centre-backs will know they’ve been in for a game today because I thought Jamille was superb.”
Semenyo’s time-stopping heroics was the third time County have scored in stoppage time already this season – after Jamille Matt’s winner against Notts County and equaliser against Macclesfield Town.
Even Mark Harris’ equaliser at Exeter City came in the final ten minutes of the match, whilst the final goal of the Chelsea U21s victory in the CheckaTrade Trophy occurred in the dying embers.
Flynn commented on why his side never refuse to give up: “They are a great group, they keep going and they never know when they’re beaten or haven’t won the football match.
“They are very, very fit – broke all the fitness scores that we set them in pre-season, so I know they are a fit bunch. I’m kind of glad that I’m not playing with them because I wasn’t bad at running, but I’d be a bit further behind these players.
“They are a fantastic group and you could see that togetherness when we got the goal and everybody was over celebrating together. It’s a big thing.”
He continued: “Of course it can [be used as momentum.] I don’t really care how we win games to be honest, I do not care if we score in the first minute or the last minute.
“It’s always nice when you score in the last minute because they haven’t got time to come back. It’s a very pleasing day and I thought it was quite a good, scrappy game if you know what I mean.
“And I have to say, I thought the referee was very good today.”
The dramatic circumstances behind the match winner will rightly so take the majority of headlines, but Dolan’s goal was right out of the top drawer as well.
It’s only October but County have already made it extremely difficult to pick the goal of the season contenders, following some superb team goals at Cambridge United and Forest Green Rovers, alongside Dolan’s free-kick against Grimsby Town.
“It was a great goal,” Flynn stated.
“We are scoring some very decent goals this season and the players were right at it. And I’m absolutely buzzing for Antoine Semenyo as well.
“I was a bit frustrated when he first came on, but he’s got the winner and that’s what he can do.
“He can hit the ball like a cannon with his right foot and his left foot. It’s a great goal and I’m delighted for him.
“Antoine was very unlucky not to start actually. I wanted to keep it tight, everyone keeps on reminding me that we concede two early goals, so I wasn’t sure if it was in the players’ minds or not.
“It obviously wasn’t, we kept it tight and we were able to get at Stevenage and cause them problems.”
Since he took charge, it’s certainly been a record-breaking tenure for Flynn and another crucial statistic was ticked off the list at Rodney Parade after taking all three points.
Flynn explained: “We’re on 27 points now which is quite funny really because when I took over we only had 26 and we’ve already got 27 in October.
“It’s going alright at the minute.”
The only unfortunate problems from the victory for County were the injuries sustained during the match.
Robbie Willmott needed several minutes of on-the-pitch attention before being taken off on a stretcher, whilst Tyreeq Bakinson was also forced to withdraw with what looked like a calf issue.
Flynn confirmed: “Robbie’s going to be sore but I’m hoping that it’s nothing more than a bruised shin.
"Robbie will definitely claim something [in terms of an assist for the match winner], you know what he’s like.
“To be honest, the way he closed the ball down as well was a great bit of play. He sneaked his run, got himself into a good position to surprise the full-back and it’s just unfortunate that he had to go off injured.
“Tyreeq is another one injured but I’m hoping it’s just a dead leg.”
NEXT UP| We travel to Crawley Town. Get Tickets Here.
AFTER THAT| We return to Rodney Parade to face Morecambe. Get Tickets Here.