Padraig Amond kept his fine goalscoring run going against Forest Green Rovers as his fourth minute strike and Ryan Haynes’ late finish was enough for Newport County AFC to rise to second in the League Two table with a 2-0 victory at The New Lawn.
The Irishman’s cool opener after Tristan Abrahams stole the ball from goalkeeper Joe Wollacott made it five in five appearances for Amond against Forest Green Rovers but they didn’t make the game safe until stoppage time when Haynes also found the target.
Wollacott was dismissed for tripping Abrahams after 27 minutes so former Carmarthen Town shot stopper Lewis Thomas came on, but he completely misjudged the bounce of the ball as Haynes’ 25-yard strike nestled under him and into the back of the net.
The Exiles rise into second with all three points, two behind early pacesetters Exeter City and level with Crewe Alexandra who are only behind County on goal difference.
Manager Michael Flynn elected to make three changes to the side which bravely bowed out of the Carabao Cup in midweek but insisted on retaining the 4-2-1-3 formation usually fielded with like-for-like changes.
Tom King returned in place of Nick Townsend, Ryan Inniss came in for his Exiles debut when replacing Kyle Howkins and Joss Labadie recovered from the hamstring injury sustained last week to come in for Corey Whitely.
As expected, Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper made more changes as he kept to his tradition of rotating the squad for cup competitions in midweek, there were six alterations in total but neither of the former Exiles – Shawn McCoulsky and Aaron Collins – started the contest.
This was a fixture between two sides boasting some of the meanest defences in the Football League – both had played seven games in all competitions so far in 2019/20, keeping nine clean sheets between them with Rovers leading the way in that department with five.
But they looked a shadow of that defensive resilience and unity which has almost become a trademark in recent matches as they constantly made mistakes, were too hesitant on the ball and kept putting their goalkeeper under immense pressure with sloppy back passes.
It didn’t take County long to seize upon that insecurity in defence as Padraig Amond maintained his fine goal scoring form against Rovers inside four minutes.
Twice before the goal Joe Wollacott had to get his defence out of trouble with rushed kicks up field, that planted an idea in County heads and from chasing another down, came the goal.
Tristan Abrahams nipped in to take the ball away from Wollacott and into Amond’s path, the Irishman did the rest with a cool finish despite the best efforts of two defenders.
All the pressure in the opening exchanges was coming from County as they seized the initiative after the goal, Matty Dolan had a free kick held and Robbie Willmott almost found the bottom corner, but a deflection took it just past the far post.
It was remarkable really that despite conceding a goal to poor communication between the defence and the goalkeeper, Rovers continued to play risky back passes and they were made to pay on 27 minutes after County again took advantage.
This time it was Farrend Rawson to sell his goalkeeper short, Abrahams again used his pace and strength to wrestle the ball back and take it around Wollacott, that gave the shot stopper two options and he decided to try and regain the ball but instead took the legs of the attacker and received a red card.
Swansea born goalkeeper Lewis Thomas came on for 10-man Rovers as they had to switch formations, in fairness they still maintained attacking intent as opposed to shutting up shop and trying to stem County – more a 4-2-3 for the remainder of the contest.
They didn’t play like a man down when trying to at least get some impetus back in the contest up front, but it wasn’t long before they were making defensive errors again on 34 minutes. Rovers played a throw-in backwards and when Matt Mills dallied too long on the ball, Robbie Willmott stole the ball to run clear and turned the defensive throw-in into an attacking corner.
Labadie headed narrowly past the post from Dolan’s subsequent delivery in what was County’s final opportunity of the opening period.
Rovers did spark themselves into life in the closing stages of the half and they finally created a chance in stoppage time of five minutes added on. Taylor Allen managed to wriggle his way in behind and take the ball past King on the edge of the area, his touch wasn’t great past the goalkeeper which allowed Inniss – superb on debut – to block behind.
It’s always easy to say that teams with a man advantage will just walk away with the three points but this was also about ensuring there was no way Rovers could get back into the contest and County superbly controlled the second half to ensure they left Nailsworth with all three points.
Rovers debutant Kyle Taylor saw a shot palmed away on 52 minutes as the home side started the half stronger, but they were limited to very few opportunities as Coutny again highlighted why they’re so hard to break down this season.
With 14 minutes to go, Joseph Mills powered a free kick against the top of the left post but that was pretty much all they produced in terms of chances on goal, County had to deal with deliveries into the box throughout the half but the centre halves looked comfortable.
County did double their advantage in stoppage time but this was primarily about making sure they didn’t concede – Sheehan superb when helping out the defence with vital interceptions and blocks – Amond seeing a shot blocked with seven to go after a quick breakaway.
Another charge down field left County in a positive 3v2 situation around the edge of the area, Abrahams went for goal but only just shot past the far post, although he maybe should have squared for Dolan or Ryan Haynes.
With two minutes of the seven additional added on, County finally made the game safe as Haynes netted his first in County colours. Thomas will look back and think he should have done better but his misreading of the bounce allowed Haynes’ 25-yard strike to squirm under him and into the bottom corner.
Newport County AFC (4-2-1-3): Tom King, Ryan Haynes, Mark O’Brien (Kyle Howkins 45’), Ryan Inniss, Danny McNamara, Matty Dolan (Taylor Maloney 77’), Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie (C) (Corey Whitely 85’), Robbie Willmott, Padraig Amond, Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: Townsend, Leadbitter, Collins, Ekpiteta
Forest Green Rovers (4-3-3): Joe Wollacott, Dom Bernard, Matt Mills, Farrend Rawson, Nathan McGinley (Lewis Thomas 28’), Carl Winchester, Ebou Adams, Kyle Taylor (Junior Mondal 58’), Joseph Mills, Taylor Allen (Aaron Collins 78’), Dayle Grubb
Subs not used: Stevens, Morton, Kitching, Gowin-Malife
Referee: James Adcock
Attendance: 2,897 (898 AWAY)
Next up for County: West Ham United U21s (September 3rd 2019) HOME – Leasing.Com Trophy