Report | Exiles victorious against Gillingham at Rodney Parade

Newport County earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Gillingham at Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon.

A stunning second-half strike from Will Evans, netting his 19th league goal of the campaign, was enough to see the Exiles claim all three points in Sky Bet League Two. 

Manager Graham Coughlan made one change from the defeat against Notts County in midweek, with Aaron Wildig coming into the starting eleven in place of Ryan Delaney. Kyle Jameson returned to the squad on the bench, while Nick Townsend made his 150th appearance for the Exiles. 

Clear-cut were at a premium early on as neither side gained a real foothold in the game. The best opportunity of the opening exchanges fell the way of the visitors as Tim Dieng reacted quickest to a loose ball inside the box, though he was quickly thwarted by Shane McLoughlin. 

Looking to regain their good run of form, the Exiles had a great chance to take the lead in the 13th minute. Adam Lewis’ deep cross from the left picked out the towering Seb Palmer-Houlden, however his downward header flashed just wide of the post. 

With their tails up, County forced another chance just minutes later. A well-worked corner involving Aaron Wildig and McLoughlin saw the former produce an effort from distance after he found space on the edge of the area. 

Midway through the first half, the Exiles continued to push for an opening goal. After some smart build-up play, Will Evans threaded a lovely ball into the path of Palmer-Houlden in behind the Gills defence, but his ball was well read by the advancing Jake Turner. 

Before the break, Lewis’ delivery from the right flashed across the face of the goal but a routine take from Turner prevented an attacking chance for the Exiles, as both sides went into the break level. 

Half Time

It was the Exiles who began the second period of the front foot, creating a flurry of opportunities early on. First, a teasing cross from Lewis saw Connor Masterson steer clear at the near post to prevent a lurking Evans at the near post. That was before McLoughlin tied up Bryn Morris on the edge of the area whose trademark strike forced Turner into a strong stop. 

Looking to turn their good play into an opening goal, their pressure paid off in the 60th minute when Evans broke the deadlock with his 19th league goal of the campaign. A good passing move allowed Harry Charsley to advance into a forward position before picking out Evans, who guided a delightful volley into the far corner in-off the post. 

Minutes later, another attacking move saw Palmer-Houlden carve out a sight at goal when he found space inside the box. With his back to goal, he spun his man brilliantly but his snapshot was closed down by the well-positioned Max Ehmer. 

With just over fifteen minutes of the contest remaining, the visitors began to generate a spell of chances. Connor Mahoney made space outside, fining the feet of Dieng but a superb save from Townsend from point-blank range kept County in the lead. 

As the game headed towards its final stages, Coughlan introduced Jameson from the substitutes bench in the 82 minute as he made his first appearance for the Exiles since August. 

Despite withstanding some late pressure from the Gills, County stood firm to secure an important three points in South Wales

Full Time

The Exiles return to Sky Bet League Two action next weekend with a trip MK Dons at Stadium MK (3pm). 

Newport County: Townsend, Bennett (C), Clarke, Baker, Lewis, McLoughlin, Morris, Wildig (Jameson 82), Charsley (Bondswell 90+1), Evans, Palmer-Houlden (Zanzala 88). 

Substitutes: Maxted, Payne, Waite, Jephcott. 

Gillingham: Turner, M. Clark (Malone 80), Masterson, Ehmer (C), Lapslie (Nadesan 46), Hawkins (Walker 80), Coleman, Ogie (Williams 71), Mahoney, Hutton, Dieng (J. Clarke 80). 

Substitutes: Morris, McKenzie. 

Attendance: 4,724 (580 away)