Newport County 1, Fleetwood Town 3
Town put a miserable week behind them with a most welcome victory in South Wales.
The fit-again Gareth Seddon scored twice, and fellow striker George Donnelly netted his long-awaited first Town goal within seconds of coming on as an injury-time substitute.
This morale-boosting win moved Town within a point of the play-off zone, and provided valuable momentum ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering home game against Crawley.
Newport are still looking for their first win in 2011 after a good run before Christmas had seen them occupy second place in the Blue Square Bet Premier, at one point.
On a cold and cloudy afternoon at the Newport Stadium, Town manager Micky Mellon, made wholesale changes following the back-to-back defeats against Eastbourne and Darlington.
Danny Hurst returned in goal for the first time since his shoulder injury at Crawley in September, meaning that Scott Davies dropped to the bench after 29 consecutive league starts.
A revamped back four saw Peter Cavanagh replace the injured Shaun Beeley at right-back, with Junior Brown coming in for Alan Wright at left-back and Paul Linwood starting his first game since New Year’s Day at centre-half, taking the place of Sean Gregan.
Jamie Mullan and Sean Clancy were restored to the midfield, and Seddon was back alongside Magno Vieira up front, after his calf injury responded to treatment.
Seddon, forced off early against Easbourne and absent for Tuesday’s Darlington defeat, showed he had lost none of his sharpness with a shot after two minutes, its sting removed by defender Gary Warren.
Two minutes later, Seddon fed Magno Vieira who, in turn, supplied Clancy. The midfielder’s left-foot strike strayed wide of Gary Thompson’s right-hand post and into the arms of a County supporter behind the goal.
Hurst showed equally safe hands at the other end, comfortably claiming Kerry Morgan’s cross as the home side gained the upper hand in terms of territory and possession.
Jamie Collins, penalty scorer in the midweek draw with Cambridge, carelessly gave a corner away in the 10th minute, but Town could not take advantage.
Newport posed a greater set-piece threat from a free-kick in the 14th minute, but Mullan helped out in defence to clear the danger.
The first clear opening came on 17 minutes, when Yemi Odubade outpaced Town skipper Steve McNulty and fired narrowly past Hurst’s left post.
Town had their best chance just before the half-hour, when Brown released Anthony Barry down the left. The midfielder crossed to the back post, but Seddon could not get enough power on to his header.
County’s Chris Todd was booked for a foul and his team-mate Collins was fortunate to avoid one after a hand-ball prevented a Cavanagh pass from reaching Mullan. Newport were not so lucky in the 33rd minute, when Danny Rose handled Clancy’s cross and Town were awarded their first penalty in the top tier of non-league.
Seddon stepped up to coolly caress the ball to the left off Thompson.
Brown picked up his third booking of the season but Town were in control, being allowed plenty of time and space on the ball.
The second half started with Town under pressure. Twice Hurst punched clear before Mullan received his first booking of the season for a challenge on Morgan.
The resulting free-kick caused problems for Town’s defence and Todd hooked the ball narrowly over.
Town came back well, with Brown pushing forward on the left, but County had a glorious chance to equalise in the 52nd minute, when Sam Foley sliced his shot wide from directly in front of goal.
A fortunate deflection after 55 minutes allowed Mullan to fire a low cross in from the right as the nippy wide man continued to look dangerous.
Linwood became the fourth Town player booked as the sun finally broke through around the hour mark. Both sides continued to create chances as Cavanagh’s drive earned a corner from which Barry’s effort was cleared from under the crossbar.
Hurst tipped a Morgan drive on to the bar and McGuire deflected another drive wide for a corner as the visitors’ defence came under pressure. County’s impetus was hit, however, when Miller was sent off for a foul on McGuire after 72 minutes.
Soon afterwards, there were three Town players lying injured. McNulty fell victim to a clash of heads that was to affect him for the remainder of the game, while his central defensive partner Linwood pulled a hamstring and Hurst was caught on the back of the leg by a stray County boot.
But after a prolonged stoppage, 10-man County struck back on 76 minutes, when defender Gary Warren converted an inswinging corner from close range, his third goal of the season.
Linwood was taken off as a precaution, and replacement Nathan Pond soon went close with a header. The pressure continued, but Seddon was pulled back for controlling Clancy’s ball with a hand.
However, Town were back in front with a beautifully-worked goal on 83 minutes, turning defence into attack.
After Hurst made a superb diving save to deny Foley, the ball went straight to the other end and Mullan combined well with substitute Keigan Parker, who floated a teasing cross to the back-post. Clancy rose high to nod the ball back into the goalmouth, where Mullan fed Seddon, who tapped in for his ninth of the season
Parker showed great awareness again to spot Barry running through the middle but the midfielder’s shot was tame and straight at Thompson.
McGuire then became the fifth Town player to enter the referee’s book, just before an added period of five minutes was indicated.
Seddon was replaced by Donnelly and Town’s record signing iced the cake by converting Clancy’s cross with his left foot.
NEWPORT: Thompson, Bignot, Warren, Anaclet, Collins, Rose (Knights 65), Miller, Foley, Matthews (Lennon 64), Morgan; Subs: not used: Garner, Hatswell, Griffin.
FLEETWOOD: Hurst, Cavanagh, Brown, McNulty, Brown, Linwood (Pond 77), Barry, Clancy, Mullan, McGuire, Vieira (Parker 60), Seddon (Donnelly 90+1); Subs: not used: Davies, Milligan,
Ref: M Thompson; Att: 1,716