Michael Flynn is building something special at Newport County. The Exiles may be short on cash to splash, but they have a group of players all focused on the same goal.
Their 2-1 win at Port Vale was hailed by manager Flynn as ‘most important victory of the season’ and County will go into successive away fixtures with renewed confidence.
They take on Oldham away in League Two next Saturday before travelling to Swindon Town in the Football League Trophy the following Tuesday.
Newport are unbeaten in five League Two matches and are now second in the table, a fact which will delight club directors, but also make them gulp.
When County are in the top two club bonuses kick in.
Left-back Dan Butler was Newport’s match winner, sweeping home a low shot when the ball broke to him following good work by Mark Harris and he said: “This was always going to be a tough match. It was a hot day, we played on a big pitch and Port Vale are good at using it.
“We conceded from a set-piece which is disappointing, but you know, we didn’t give up and we managed to show that by scoring the second goal. We made sure we held on from there.
“This performance says a lot about this team to be honest. Our togetherness and how hard we work for each other will take us a long way.
“Everybody could see in the last 10 minutes the way we held on and put all our bodies behind the ball, defending for our lives and making sure we got the three points, shows massively how together we are as a team and a club.
“Our first away victory is massive.”
Scot Bennett fired Newport ahead and then Butler fired the second.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) September 2, 2018
“It was an instinctive finish by Scot,” said Butler. “A great finish and he deserved his goal because he has been playing really well for us.”
Newport were bitterly disappointed when Port Vale equalised from a set-piece and Butler said: “We pride ourselves on being good at set-pieces, making sure we don’t concede from them. We’ll keep working on it, the main thing is that we won so we’re happy with that.
“That’s the first time I’ve been the matchwinner for County. My fourth goal for the club and the first time as matchwinner.
“Podge (Padraig Amond) left the cross on purpose. I gave him a shout, so he stepped over it and fortunately my shot went in.
“My main job is to help the team keep clean sheets and deliver balls into the box for the goalscorers, but a goal of my own is nice.”
More than 220 Newport fans made the trip to Stoke, where Port Vale play, and Butler said: “The fans were unreal to be honest. I could hear them throughout the game and you could hear the roar at the end of the game – it sounded like we were at home.
“They’ve been terrific for the whole season and hopefully they keep backing us.
“The fans were massive during the final 15 minutes.
“We were shooting towards them in the second half and just hearing them gets you five yards further up the pitch. They were really important for us.
“I tried to jump into the away end after I scored, but I didn’t quite get there! It was great to score and even better to do it in front of them.”
County went ahead after 18 minutes when Matty Dolan’s corner was only half cleared by Leon Legge into the path of Josh Sheehan. The midfield player fired a volley back towards goal and the ball span off Lewis Hardcastle and Connell Rawlinson, allowing Bennett to swivel and stab past Scott Brown.
Vale equalised nine minutes later when Luke Hannant’s corner was swept in with pace and goalkeeper Joe Day did not quite connect cleanly with an attempted punch. The 6ft 3ins Tom Pope, aged 33, headed into an empty net for his 56th goal at Vale Park, making him the all-time top scorer at their stadium.
At that stage Vale were confident, but this County will always have a go. Josh Sheehan and Harris combined well and when the ball was cut back into the penalty area Amond stepped over the ball.
Butler was running in and calmly side-footed into the net.
Vale substitute Ricky Miller hit a post, but Newport held on and Flynn said: “It was a really important win, our first League away victory of the season.
🎥| Goals and highlights from yesterday's victory against @OfficialPVFC are now available on…
Youtube 👉 https://t.co/DbIUNsNqAR
iFollow 👉 https://t.co/YEErx5Ypcz #OurJourneyContinues pic.twitter.com/Xyu688NwgQ
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) September 2, 2018
“That, for me, was the most important win of the season because we weren’t at our fluent best, but showed the character they will need for the rest of this season.
“The players will need to fight and dig in. The boys were absolutely outstanding.
“This is a special club. Not the most polished, but it’s a club where good people are valued.
“I have an outstanding group of boys. They are all together, work their socks off and enjoy playing for the football club.
“It’s a joy for me to be their manager. I’m not getting carried away. It’s September now, but it’s good to have these points on the board early.”
The next test for County is at Oldham Athletic in League Two next Saturday. That is going to be a tough test against a home team who lie sixth in the table, two points behind County.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Butler, Franks, Demetriou (capt), Bennett, Pipe, Dolan, Bakinson, Sheehan (O’Brien 78), Amond (Matt 60), Harris (Marsh-Brown 90). Subs not used: Townsend, Foulston, Forbes, Cooper
Port Vale (4-4-2): Brown, Clark, Legge, Rawlinson, Montano (Gibbons 72), Worrall, Joyce, Hardcastle (Miller 60), Hannant, Dodds (Whitfield 60), Pope. Subs not used: Kay, Hornby, Quigley, Smith
Referee: Martin Coy
Attendance: 4,385 (223 away)