Seb Palmer-Houlden’s injury-time strike sealed a dramatic 1-0 victory against Doncaster Rovers at the Eco-Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the game heading towards a goalless draw in Sky Bet League Two, Lewis Payne’s low cross found the on-running Bristol City loanee who swept home a delightful finish to hand the Exiles all three points on the road.
Manager Graham Coughlan made three changes to the side that drew with Eastleigh last time out, with Adam Lewis, James Waite and Kiban Rai coming into the starting eleven. Harry Charsley, Palmer-Houlden and Payne all dropped to the substitutes bench.
It was the visitors who made an assertive start to proceedings in South Yorkshire, coming close inside four minutes. Bryn Morris’ cross-field pass found Will Evans inside the Rovers box, but the striker was unable to produce a precise attempt at goal.
Calm and composed in possession, the duo worked another chance just minutes later. Morris' free-kick delivery from outside the area found the Exiles’ leading goalscorer; he showed great skill to turn his man but had yet another effort denied by the stubborn Rovers defence. From the resultant corner, County thought they had forced an opener only for James Clarke’s close-range effort to be ruled out for offside.
After absorbing County’s early possession, the closest Grant McCann’s side came to an opening sight of goal was through new signing Billy Watters. Luke Molyneux’s low cross was met by the Wrexham loanee at the near post, whose downward header was comfortably collected by Nick Townsend.
With a lengthy stop in play due to a change in officials on the half-hour mark, Rovers forced another chance just seconds after the restart. Matthew Craig’s high cross towards the far post was recycled well by Molyneux, with his reverse pass being well cut out by the well-positioned Ryan Delaney.
Just before the break, Townsend was needed to prevent a powerful effort from Molyneux from distance after he cut inside past Clarke following a swift counter-attacking move. That was before an instinctive stop from Townsend denied Watters from point-blank range, with the contest goalless at the break.
The second period began in similar fashion to the first with County enjoying large spells of possession. Looking to turn their good play into chances, Waite found space down the right-hand side but he failed to pick a man out inside the box from his deep cross.
Midway through the half, Coughlan deployed a triple change in the hope of changing his side’s fortunes in attack, as Charsley, Wildig and Palmer-Houlden all entered the fray. Immediately following the change, Shane McLoughlin’s cross from the left picked out Evans lurking at the back post, with his strike firing the side-netting.
With twenty minutes of the game remaining, the home side created a flurry of chances. The most notable saw Joe Ironside bring down the ball cleverly inside the box before his volley cannoned off the woodwork, following a superb save from Townsend.
In the final stages, both sides continued to search for a late winner, and it was the Exiles who snatched all three points in injury time. After a slick attacking move in which County moved the ball from left to right, substitute Payne's low cross was steered home by the on-running Palmer-Houlden to net his fifth goal in all competitions this season.
The Exiles return to action on Tuesday night with a trip to Eastleigh in an Emirates FA Cup Third Round replay.
Doncaster Rovers: Jones, Molyneux (Taylor 90’), Broadbent (Biggins 65’), Rowe (C), Nixon, Bailey, Ironside, McGrath, Close, Craig (Carty 88’), Waters (Hurst 65’).
Substitutes: Bottomley, Olowu, Faulkner.
Newport County: Townsend, Lewis (Payne 46’), Delaney (C), Clarke, Baker (Wood 75’) McLoughlin, Bennett (Wildig 57’), Morris, Waite (Charsley 57’), Evans, Rai (Palmer-Houlden 57’).
Substitutes: Maxted, Bondswell.