Newport 0 - 1 Fleetwood Town. Fleetwood Town completed a fantastic week by grinding out a 1-0 win away against their struggling Welsh hosts to remain on the coat-tails of Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Wrexham.
This was one of those ‘scruffy’ games, which teams with aspirations to be crowned champions are said to need to win, ones in which few chances are created.
Peter Cavanagh scored the only goal in this one, after 75 minutes, on a day when a very bumpy pitch stifled both teams’ creativity.
It was back to the bread and butter for Town, following their FA Cup triumph over League One Yeovil, which secured a dream third-round tie at home to Blackpool on January 7. However, manager Micky Mellon was adamant it would be business as usual for his team.
It was a scrappy opening 10 minutes, and apart from a few early Newport corners, there was little action to get the 1,100 crowd too animated.
The first real chance fell to County’s David Pipe on 10 minutes, but he saw his shot curl past the post.
Fleetwood then began to settle, as they adapted to the extremely uneven pitch, and began to assert themselves, as Andy Mangan missed two identical chances, within a minute of each other.
Twice, Fleetwood broke on the right, with initially Shaun Beeley and then Peter Till crossing for Mangan at the far post.
Both deliveries found the striker, but the first header flew wide, and the other was straight at the keeper.
Any attack from Newport appeared to involve the influential Danny Rose, who was at the centre of anything creative from the home side.
It was a mazy run from the ex-Manchester United academy player, which drew a foul from Beeley in a dangerous position on the left.
Following an excellent delivery, the Fleetwood defence were thankful for the commanding presence of Scott Davies, who punched clear.
The second half started in end-to-end fashion, as Davies brilliantly tipped a Craig McAlister shot wide, just minutes after the restart.
This was followed by successive Fleetwood corners as they attacked towards the travelling Cod Army, but both failed to give them the goal chance they craved.
It became a very low-key half, in which both teams struggled to string passes together.
In fact, most of Newport’s chances were created from the long throw of Tom Miller, with substitute Elliot Buchanan glancing a header into Davies’ arms, following a trademark Miller delivery on 70 minutes.
Mellon’s response to the stalemate was to introduce Gareth Seddon for Till.
Seddon had scored in both his previous fixtures against Newport, and was hoping for more of the same.
With just 15 minutes remaining, Seddon played a key part in the only goal, as he burst down the left and crossed for Mangan, who saw his shot saved by the legs of the keeper.
However, Cavanagh was in the right place at the right time to fire home into the vacant net for his first goal of the season.
With time running out for Newport, they began to push more men forward in search of an equaliser.
This left space for Jamie Vardy, and he so nearly made it 2-0. Using his pace, he got round skipper Warren, and eventually the keeper, before seeing his shot trickle just wide as the angle narrowed.
There was still time for late drama, though, as Fleetwood’s loan defender Kieran Charnock was sent off in the final few minutes for a heavy challenge.
Newport couldn’t capitalise on their numerical advantage, and Fleetwood held on.
Wrexham won too, to maintain their three-point advantage, which Town can close tomorrow, when they visit Hayes & Yeading.
Newport: Potter, Warren, Yakubu, Hughes, Rodgers, Miller (Doherty 78), Rose, Pipe, McAllister, Knights, Matthews (Buchanan 45); not used: Swan, Hatswell, Prosser, Doherty, Buchanan
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, Goodall, Charnock, Cavanagh, Pond, Till (Seddon 64), Briggs, McGuire, Mangan (S Brown 90+1), Vardy; not used: Stephenson, Wilson, Vieira,
Ref: J Hopkins; Att: 1,011