With just over five weeks until Newport County AFC’s 2020/21 Sky Bet League Two campaign gets underway, we have taken a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the Exiles’ memorable opening day fixtures.
Stevenage 3-3 Newport County AFC (5th August, 2017)
Venue: Lamex Stadium
Stevenage: Pett 11’, Gorman 61’ (pen.), Newton 72’
Newport County AFC: Nouble 55’, Demetriou 77’, McCoulsky 90+4’
County have been involved in some opening day goal-fests over the last few seasons, so what better way to start than by looking back at the six-goal thriller against Stevenage in 2017.
After Michael Flynn guided the Exiles to Football League safety against Notts County on the final day of the 2016/17 ‘Great Escape’ campaign, there was plenty of optimism amongst County supporters heading into the new season.
But their hopes of an opening day victory took a hit after Tom Pett’s strike put Stevenage ahead after just 11 minutes at the Lamex Stadium, ensuring Flynn’s men trailed 1-0 at the half-time interval.
Frank Nouble responded for the Exiles when he smashed in from close range 10 minutes after the restart, before the home side were awarded a penalty. Dale Gorman slotted the resulting spot-kick past Joe Day to put the Boro in the driving seat once again, and Danny Newton added a third to extend their advantage.
But Mickey Demetriou got the Exiles back on track by firing in from 30 yards in what was an impressive way to register his first goal of the new campaign. County threw bodies forward as they looked to grab a late equaliser, which finally arrived with just 120 seconds to play of the six additional minutes.
Substitute Shaun McCoulsky, who replaced Scot Bennett earlier in the half, pounced on a loose ball in the Stevenage area and fired the Exiles level, sending the travelling fans into delirium.
Newport County AFC 4-1 Accrington Stanley (3rd August, 2013)
Venue: Rodney Parade
Newport County AFC: Worley 24’, Zebroski 43’ 66’, Jolley 55’
Accrington Stanley: Webber 68’
County’s convincing victory over Accrington Stanley on the opening day of the 2013/14 season was the perfect way to kick off the new campaign, particularly given it was the Exiles’ first game back in the Football League after securing promotion from the National League.
Harry Worley, on his debut for the club, gave the hosts a dream start after he volleyed home County’s first goal in the Football League after a 25-year absence.
And it was another debutant in the form of Chris Zebroski who doubled the Exiles’ lead three minutes before the interval when he dispatched Christian Jolley’s cross beyond Accrington goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin.
Jolley was among the goals himself in the second half as he put the tie to bed just before the hour-mark, curling a left-footed effort beyond Dunbavin.
County were cruising and Zebroski, with his second of the afternoon, volleyed home an emphatic strike to inflict more misery on the away side, who managed to grab a consolation goal through Danny Webber.
It was the perfect start to life back in the fourth tier for the late Justin Edinburgh’s men.
Mansfield Town 3-4 Newport County AFC (11th August, 2012)
Venue: One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town: Speight 48’ 89’, Green 50’
Newport County AFC: Yakubu 10’, James 13’, O’Conor 56’, Louis 66’
It was a seven-goal thriller at the One Call Stadium on the opening day of the 2012/13 season which saw County seal a 4-3 win over Mansfield Town.
Ismail Yakubu nodded home Andy Sandell's free-kick to put County in front before defender Tony James rifled in a volley with just 13 minutes on the clock.
However, two goals within the space of two minutes from Jake Speight and former County striker Matt Green, who enjoyed a two-year stint with the club between 2005 and 2007, drew the home side level.
Aaron O'Connor - County’s top scorer that season - quickly responded for the visitors in an eventful eight minutes, heading home to restore the Exiles’ lead.
Jefferson Louis gave the away side some breathing space after he tapped in the fourth and his first for the club, but Mansfield continued to fight back as Speight grabbed his second in the penultimate minute of the encounter.
Justin Edinburgh’s men managed to fend off Mansfield’s hopes of a late comeback, ensuring County claimed all three points on the opening day of a campaign which saw them secure promotion back to the Football League.