Josh Sheehan’s first goal of the 2019/20 campaign helped Newport County AFC maintain their remarkable start to the season with a 2-1 victory over Scunthorpe United which sees them rise to third in the table.
Padraig Amond opened the scoring with the final kick of the first half thanks to a deft flick from a Sheehan knock down, before the Iron equalised four minutes after the restart when Mark O’Brien turned James Perch’s cross into his own net.
The afternoon belonged to Sheehan, however, as he smashed home a screamer into the top left corner on 56 minutes to secure all three points against a hardworking Scunthorpe United side.
Michael Flynn elected to make two changes to the side which last featured in League Two two weeks ago as George Nurse’s stoppage time screamer secured a narrow victory over Carlisle United.
Ryan Inniss was handed his first Football League minutes since his loan move from Crystal Palace, captain Joss Labadie also returned from a knee injury in place of Kyle Howkins and Matty Dolan respectively.
Scunthorpe United manager Paul Hurst had to deal with an injury crisis before heading to Rodney Parade, so he was forced into three changes of his 4-4-2 formation which secured a comprehensive victory over Northampton Town last time out.
Out went Kevin Van Veen and Kgosi Nthle as Perch and Jamie Proctor came in as like-for-like replacements for the Iron.
The first half was certainly a physical one as both sides bombarded the respective penalty areas with aerial deliveries, it was played at a pulsating pace with 20 fouls and three yellow cards before the interval.
With Inniss, County had a man mountain to get rid of everything that came anywhere near shot stopper Tom King, the goalkeeper only having one thing to do in the first half when easily holding Proctor’s header in the 13th minute.
County were causing more of the problems with their crosses – away goalkeeper Rory Watson looking susceptible and the centre halves didn’t deal with things much better either.
Within eight seconds, County had their first moment of note. Harrison McGahey and captain Rory McArdle got completely confused from kick as County rushed forward – Jamille Matt slipped in Amond but Watson palmed it away.
O’Brien twice saw headers go over the top from Robbie Willmott corner kicks while Labadie wasn’t too far away with a snapshot as County were making all the running.
If either team was going to break the deadlock before half time, then it was always County who looked the likelier and they found the opener with the final passage of play as Amond notched his sixth of the season.
Instead of being in the penalty area, Inniss found himself wide on the right to swing in another pinpoint delivery, Matt flicked it on to Sheehan then Amond who was waiting towards the far post to prod it home.
Into the second half and Scunthorpe rallied from the restart to find their equaliser in the 49th minute.
The aerial bombardment didn’t work before the break, but they got their first one right on the money after the restart, Perch was left in far too much space to send a stinging drive across the face which inadvertently hit O’Brien on its way into the net.
Just before that, County should have made it 2-0 but Watson superbly kept out Matt from four yards. It was all about the crosses again at Rodney Parade, this time Willmott delivered a peach for the striker, but it went straight at the goalkeeper when either side of him was a goal.
The Exiles weren’t about to take the double sucker punch, however, and they were back in-front within seven minutes of being pegged back.
Inniss did extremely well to intercept a pass then blast it down field, it was a fantastic clearance but against a side susceptible to the high ball, it could always turn into something more.
Junior Brown this time misjudged the bounce, Amond nipped in with a beautiful touch to control it on a sixpence, Sheehan advanced to meet the little lay off before smashing an unstoppable finish straight into the top corner.
County have scored some crackers recently at Rodney Parade and this one was no different, no one in the squad deserved it more than Sheehan who has done everything but score this season so it was the perfect reward for the midfielder who put in another man-of-the-match performance.
Again Scunthorpe rallied but they couldn’t find their equaliser despite a good few openings, Proctor just didn’t have his shooting boots on and was wasteful when presented with chances from neat through balls.
McGahey spurned a glorious chance in stoppage time when found unmarked at a corner, King smartly holding the attempt, meaning County continued their unbeaten home league start while ascending up the table.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Tom King, Mark O’Brien, Scot Bennett, Ryan Inniss, Ryan Haynes, Joss Labadie (C) (George Nurse 85’), Josh Sheehan, Danny McNamara, Robbie Willmott, Padraig Amond (Trsitan Abrahams 85’), Jamille Matt
Subs not used: Townsend, Howkins, Dolan, Whitely, Poleon
Scunthorpe United FC (4-4-2): Rory Watson, James Perch, Harrison McGahey, Rory McArdle (C), Junior Brown, Alex Gilliead (Jamie Ward 68’), Levi Sutton (Regan Slater 57’), Yann Songo’o, Ryan Colclough, Jamie Proctor (Kevin Van Veen 78’), Lee Novak
Subs not used: Eastwood, Butler, Eisa, Bedeau
Referee: Tom Nield
Attendance: 3,946 (178 AWAY)
Next up for County: Crawley Town (22nd October 2019)