Nicky Maynard helped to reignite Newport County AFC’s promotion charge as he struck the only goal of the game on his debut to see off Grimsby Town at Rodney Parade.
The striker joined on loan from Mansfield Town earlier this week and showed his knack of being in the right place at the right time to fire home shortly after the restart.
The hosts had to weather an early storm after Grimsby’s energetic start and things looked to be going against County when Scot Bennett was dismissed before half time.
But the team regrouped and came out focused for the second half. Maynard produced the moment that won the match but the defensive effort kept the Mariners at bay to earn a first league win since December 8.
Michael Flynn made four changes from their defeat at Harrogate Town last weekend. Ashley Baker came into the side for the suspended Liam Shephard while Josh Sheehan returned to midfield to captain the side in the absence of Joss Labadie, who served the second of his three-match suspension.
Deadline day loan signing Maynard started upfront alongside fellow January arrival Dom Telford and the duo were hoping to showcase their attacking talent. It was, however, goalkeeper Nick Townsend who was thrust into action first, showing his awareness and pace off the goal line as he beat Stefan Payne to Joe Bunney’s through ball to deny the striker a shot on goal.
It was a bright start from the visitors with Elliott Hewitt and Joe Adams linking up well down County’s left. Adams crept in behind the defence as he controlled a long ball perfectly but his cut-back was cleared by David Longe-King.
A marauding run from Hewitt almost paid dividends when his fierce cross met the head of James Hanson but Townsend was equal to the striker’s effort as he tipped the ball over the crossbar. The goalkeeper was at it again minutes later with a flying punch to clear the ball as Hanson looked to reach Adam’s teasing delivery.
The hosts started to cause problems of their own with Sheehan displaying his passing skill-set with a number of balls that played Telford, Maynard and Luke Gambin in behind the defence. Only the leg of Jay Matete denied Maynard going through on goal when Telford broke on the counter and tried his play his strike partner in.
However, County were reduced to 10 men eight minutes before the break when Bennett brought down Payne. There were strong appeals from both sides but referee Craig Hicks opted to brandish the red card.
Priestly Farquharson replaced Baker at half time to make his debut as County moved to a flat back four and the Exiles responded positively despite their numerical disadvantage. The reshuffle saw Dolan move in midfield and that led to County’s opener as his deflected strike fell perfectly for Maynard who slotted home.
Jake Scrimshaw was introduced on the hour mark for Telford with County looking organised and more assured. Grimsby’s earlier tempo had faded and they struggled to find a way through with Idris El Mizouni resorting to a long-range effort that flew well wide.
The Exiles were up for the battle and Flynn replaced Gambin and goalscorer Maynard for Aaron Lewis and former Grimsby marksman Padraig Amond for the final 17 minutes.
Scrimshaw had a chance to seal all three points late on but Jake Eastwood’s outstretched leg denied him but it didn’t prove decisive as Grimsby couldn’t find a way through the resilient home defence.
Newport County AFC: Nick Townsend; David Longe-King, Matty Dolan, Mickey Demetriou; Ashley Baker (Priestley Farquharson 46), Scot Bennett, Josh Sheehan (C), Ryan Haynes; Luke Gambin (Aaron Lewis 73); Nicky Maynard (Padraig Amond 73), Dom Telford (Jake Scrimshaw 61).
Subs not used: Tom King, Anthony Hartigan, Ryan Taylor