Fraser Franks was the matchwinner for the first time in a Newport County AFC shirt as the Exiles remained in the automatic promotion spots of League Two with a gritty 1-0 victory at Tranmere Rovers.
County had the lead from the fifth minute as Franks finished like a seasoned striker, drilling past goalkeeper Scott Davies after connecting to Padraig Amond’s flick-on from a Dan Butler cross.
Antoine Semenyo, Amond and Tyreeq Bakinson all had chances to extend the lead across both halves but found Davies in their way, meaning it was another solid defensive display late on to secure all three points as Tranmere threw everything at it to try and get back in the game.
But County held out resolutely for a third successive away league victory, meaning the Exiles stay third in the League Two table and still the three points away from leaders Lincoln City who scored at the death to beat MK Dons at Sincil Bank.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that suffered defeat to Yeovil Town at Rodney Parade last weekend.
Tyler Forbes returned to the defence as David Pipe missed out on the matchday squad, while Mark O’Brien also came into the defence for his first league start of the campaign.
Scot Bennett moved into midfield to accommodate for the Irishman’s inclusion in the ever so effective 3-4-1-2 formation, but Josh Sheehan dropped to the bench.
The final change came up-front as Antoine Semenyo came in for his first league start, replacing Mark Harris who also was named on the bench.
Tranmere Rovers manager Micky Mellon elected to make two changes from the side that secured their inaugural away victory at Carlisle United last time out.
The first change came in defence as Jake Caprice missed out on the matchday squad to be replaced by Adam Buxton, while Paul Mullin was rewarded for his 25-yard stunner at Brunton Park when coming in for Cole Stockton.
Those like-for-like changes meant Rovers again fielded their familiar 4-4-2 formation from the offset in Merseyside, in what was County’s first trip to the stadium since 2014.
Following last weekend’s first home league defeat of the season, County certainly came out of the traps with intent when looking for a response and they completely controlled first-half proceedings from start to finish.
The Exiles probably could have felt slightly aggrieved not to have a more superior advantage at the break but when the goal did arrive it was another piece of art from the side.
It came after just five minutes and saw centre-back Fraser Franks become County’s joint top league scorer when grabbing his second of the campaign.
Matty Dolan’s free-kick was only half-cleared by home captain Stephen McNulty into the path of Dan Butler, the left-back instantly putting the ball back into the area and when Padraig Amond lept highest, Franks worked his way between the heart of the Tranmere defence to control the knock down and rifle low through Scott Davies.
That clearly shook the home defence and that indecision at the back almost cost them again after 11 minutes when Manny Monthe was dispossessed by Antoine Semenyo, but the returning County striker wastefully drilled wide when through clear on goal.
The chances just kept on coming the way of County at Prenton Park as they completely controlled the tempo and the ascendency and Mark O’Brien was unlucky not to open up his account for the season after 26 minutes.
When found unmarked in the area from Dolan’s corner-kick, the Irishman headed at Ollie Banks for another set-piece, and when that one was whipped in it required the quick-thinking of Davies to keep out another O'Brien header from 12 yards.
Tranmere eventually began to grow into the game even though County continuously looked likely to extend the advantage but couldn’t create too much before half-time.
Their first attempt at goal took until the 35th minute but even that was an audacious 40-yard attempt from Adam Buxton, while Dylan Mottley-Henry should have done better than hitting the side netting when Demetriou mis-cued a headed clearance.
Tranmere’s best chance of the half came in the 38th minute and probably for the first time this season, James Norwood failed to at-least hit the target when in on goal.
The talisman was sent clear by a looping pass from Mottley-Henry, but he couldn’t grab his eighth goal of the League Two season as his chipped attempt cleared Joe Day but also the crossbar.
Tyreeq Bakinson fired wide just before the indication of one-minute additional time but that was about it for a first-half where the Exiles looked mightily comfortable throughout.
On his 200th competitive appearance, Joe Day had a lot to thank his defence for when making Tranmere fail to register a shot on target during first-half proceedings, and Franks also made that decisive breakthrough to truly show the defence were having a big impact on proceedings.
County were looking menacing up-front as well and that threat was used to good effect at the start of second-half proceedings but Amond saw his attempt saved after being played through by Bakinson.
Norwood and Bakinson traded attempts to see who could fire higher into the stand as the game seemingly died down in the middle part of the second-half, but the Exiles were never far away from almost extending their advantage.
After Dolan was substituted for Josh Sheehan, Butler took responsibility of the looping free-kicks and when he sent one in with pace towards Amond, Buxton had to outstretch a leg to try and divert it away from the Irishman.
Fortunately for Tranmere, that clearance did just about clear Davies’ crossbar, but County came close again from the resultant corner when Franks flashed a header wide.
As the game ticked closer to its conclusion, the home side began to start going for things and substitute Larnell Cole almost got on the end of a Jonny Smith cross but mistimed the jump.
It was becoming a backs to the wall job again for County as Tranmere continued to pile forward but the Exiles were again to equal to the challenge just like they have been in recent away games.
That was highlighted greatest when Day failed to get the best of connections to a drilled delivery, but Amond had travelled all the way back from attack to ensure that no Tranmere player could get on the end of it.
Joe Day made his first save of the afternoon at the start of three additional minutes to tip away a Smith cross that may have nestled in the far corner without a touch, and he had to acrobatically deny Cole at the death.
But County cleared the resultant corner-kick to hold out for all three points, securing their third successive league victory on the road in the process.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Forbes, Demetriou (C), Franks, O’Brien, Bennett, Butler, Bakinson, Dolan (Sheehan 62’), Amond, Semenyo (Matt 78’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Pring, Harris, Cooper
Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Davies, Bakayogo, Monthe, McNulty (C), Buxton, Jennings (Cole 55’), Banks, McCullough, Mottley-Henry (Smith 55’), Mullin (Stockton 72’), Norwood
Subs not used: George, Harris, Ellis, Gilmour
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 5,747 (298 AWAY)
Next up for County: Chelsea U21s (25th September 2018)