Newport County AFC returned to winning ways as goals in either half from Mark O’Brien and Jamille Matt saw them secure a commanding 2-0 victory at Swindon Town.
O’Brien powerfully headed Robbie Willmott’s corner kick into the bottom corner after 38 minutes before Matt made sure of all three points with a peach of a volley eight minutes from time.
Exeter City’s shock home defeat to Grimsby Town saw League Two’s final unbeaten run come to a thumping halt, meaning County closed the gap to leave them 6th but just two points off the summit.
Michael Flynn elected to make two changes to the side which coped so capably when implementing a three at the back formation for the first time in the league this season when drawing with early pacesetters Exeter City.
The Exiles again implemented a 3-5-2 system at The County Ground, but Tristan Abrahams was rewarded for his goalscoring cameo last weekend with a starting berth, Danny McNamara also returned in place of Padraig Amond and Corey Whitely.
In spite of some injury problems, Swindon Town manager Richie Wellens received some encouraging news with his numerous late fitness tests meaning he was only forced into one change of a 4-4-2 formation.
Keshi Anderson couldn’t recover in time from the hamstring injury sustained early on in last weekend’s victory over Cambridge United, meaning Kaiyne Woolery returned on the right side – the player who scored the winner in this fixture last season.
Wellens may have benefitted from allowing his players the maximum time to prove their fitness before the game, but it wasn’t long before he was ruing his luck on the injury front as captain Dion Conroy went down with a nasty looking problem inside the opening exchanges.
The lengthy delay that followed did affect proceedings somewhat, but the Exiles did boss possession early on and Jamille Matt flashed a header past the post on 10 minutes. Remarkably, that came at the end of a spell of five successive corners for the Exiles.
Swindon didn’t particularly create anything of real importance at any point in the first half, they did manage a cross into the area on 15 minutes, but Tom King held it comfortably following a deflection off a County player.
Back came the Exiles as they were working off sloppy mistakes from the home side who seemed edgy around their own penalty area, Robbie Willmott nipped in to lay off Joss Labadie, but the shot drifted wide.
Flynn sung the praises of Sheehan last weekend – stating he could be a Premier League player soon – and his and Scot Bennett’s persistence to chase back prevented everything Swindon had to offer. Ellis Iandolo looked lively but was twice denied by the Welshman with last ditch challenges.
After the five successive corners, the Exiles didn’t get another for 26 minutes but when they did, it created the desired effect as County took what was a deserved lead in Wiltshire.
Willmott again swung it in where Mark O’Brien was waiting near the back post to power a header down and past a helpless Luke McCormick. He does like to wait some time for a goal – but when they arrive, they’re important ones.
The Exiles could have had a second from the next corner as well with McCormick constantly losing the flight of the ball in transition, McNamara this time met it but it came off the wrong part of his boot and wide.
The experienced goalkeeper atoned for his hesitancy in aerial duels with a trademark save in the second minute of stoppage time. Again, he failed to come for a set piece, the ball took a while to set itself for Labadie but when the shot came in, McCormick got down well to repel it.
Into the second half and Swindon started to get a greater foothold on proceedings. For a good 15 minutes, the Exiles were camped inside their own half but defended magnificently as attacks were breaking down before the final third.
The Robins’ first opening came from an error by the Exiles on 58 minutes. There was a slight miscommunication between Bennett and King, the centre back eventually scuffed a clearance which was put back across the face for Lloyd Isgrove eight yards out. It looked easier to score but fortunately he hit the crossbar and Jerry Yates couldn’t follow it up. Cue the inquisition between the two County players.
Still Swindon came but to no avail – the defensive shift from the back line was utterly immense to the point where King really didn’t have too much to do.
A second goal was always going to kill things off as a contest and the Swindon supporters were heading for the exits in their droves in the 82nd minute as Matt notched his second of the season.
Padraig Amond’s introduction helped the Exiles regather composure in transition between defence and attack, the ball was no longer just coming back at County and when Amond nipped in high up the pitch, he crossed with accurate precision for Matt to thump an attempt into the roof of the net.
That drained the life from the Swindon attack, they did muster one final chance which King held comfortably as County saw out a magnificent away victory.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Tom King, Kyle Howkins, Mark O’Brien, Scot Bennett, Danny McNamara, Robbie Willmott, Joss Labadie (C) (Matty Dolan 87’), Ryan Haynes, Josh Sheehan, Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams (Padraig Amond 71’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Nurse, Whitely, Maloney, Poleon
Swindon Town (4-4-2): Luke McCormick, Ellis Iandolo, Zeki Fryers, Dion Conroy (C) (Adam May 9’), Rob Hunt, Kaiyne Woolery (Michael Doughty 71’), Anthony Grant, Danny Rose (Tyler Reid 80’), Lloyd Isgrove, Eoin Doyle, Jerry Yates
Subs not used: Benda, Broadbent, Twine, Curran
Referee: David Rock
Next up for County: Carlisle United (5th October 2019) 2019