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REPORT | Brandon Cooper's late header sees Exiles extend lead at the top of Sky Bet League Two

31 October 2020

Newport County AFC left it late again as they avoided a scare on Halloween with Brandon Cooper’s late header securing a dramatic victory over 10-man Harrogate Town.

The Exiles impressed in the first half and Padraig Amond tapped in Liam Shephard’s pass to continue his recent scoring streak and give his side a deserved lead.

Visiting captain Josh Falkingham picked up two yellow cards before the half-time whistle but Harrogate rallied and drew level through a Will Smith header.

Michael Flynn’s men enjoyed plenty of possession in the second half but struggled to carve out clear-cut opportunities.

Amond managed to snatch a late winner on Tuesday and County were at it again as Cooper rose highest to meet Scott Twine's corner at the death.

Flynn had opted to stick with the team that saw off Colchester in mid-week but was forced into a late change when Matty Dolan dropped out and was replaced by Scot Bennett.

Newport County made their intentions clear in the opening minute with Tristan Abrahams and Scott Twine both trying their luck, although neither was able to find the target.

The heavens opened over Rodney Parade, which halted the hosts’ good start and Harrogate almost caught them napping when Falkingham fired over from the edge of the box following a free kick.

County wrestled back control of the game and Twine was proving instrumental with his close control and calmness in possession and when the ball fell for him within shooting distance the youngster didn’t need an invitation. His effort fell to the feet of Abrahams but the striker wasn’t expecting it and couldn’t adjust his feet in time.

The duo combined again when Abrahams’ cross fell to Twine in the box. The attacker opted to take an extra touch rather than a first-time shot and Harrogate were able to regroup and clear the danger.

Things started to click in attack on the half-hour mark and Amond, who has had to be patient for his chance this season, could have claimed a six-minute hat-trick. A flowing passing move involving Mickey Demetriou, Twine and Abrahams ended with Amond forcing a fine save from James Belshaw.

The Irishman wasn’t to be denied and when Joss Labadie’s defence-splitting pass picked out the run of Shephard, Amond tapped home the wing-back’s low cross for his third goal in as many games. The striker was played in on goal again minutes later but Smith managed to block the shot.

Harrogate responded positively and were finding space on the wing but when Falkingham went over in the box referee Paul Howard showed the midfielder a second yellow rather than awarding a penalty.

However, the Sulphurites did manage to level proceedings before the break when a George Thomson corner caused a scramble in the box and Smith was able to fire in the loose ball.

The Exiles had to be patient as they struggled to break down a resolute Harrogate, who had something to protect, and with half an hour left to play, Flynn introduced Robbie Willmott and Jamie Proctor to try and make the difference. It almost paid off when Willmott picked out Amond but his looping header landed on the roof of the net.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Harrogate provided a few scares. They had it in the net when Aaron Martin tapped in after a Smith header but the linesman came to County’s rescue before Jack Muldoon teed up Thomson in the box but the midfielder shot wide.

Jamie Devitt was handed his debut and the hosts applied late pressure but couldn’t create any clear chances as Harrogate remained stubborn and organised at the back and it looked like County were going to have to settle for a draw when Willmott mis-timed his kick at the back post with the goal at his mercy.

However, County never gave up and Cooper proved to be the saviour with a thumping header in the 88th minute to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Newport County AFC: Nick Townsend; Brandon Cooper, Scot Bennett (Jamie Devitt 81), Mickey Demetriou; Liam Shephard (Robbie Willmott 59), Joss Labadie (C), Josh Sheehan, Ryan Haynes; Scott Twine; Tristan Abrahams (Jamie Proctor 59), Padraig Amond.

Subs not used: Tom King, Ash Baker, Bradley Webb, Kevin Ellison.


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