Hereford 2 County 3
A STOPPAGE-TIME screamer from super sub Robbie Willmott kept Newport County AFC’s Blue Square Bet Premier title challenge on track at Hereford.
Willmott sealed a thrilling 3-2 win over the Bulls in the third minute of time added on as County recorded their fifth successive victory and kept up the pressure on leaders Wrexham.
The Exiles fell behind twice as Josh O’Keefe scored a brace of penalties but two superb headers from man of the moment Lee Minshull levelled the scores before the late, late drama at a bouncing Edgar Street.
The result takes Justin Edinburgh's men up to third in the table, three points behind Wrexham with two games in hand.
Edinburgh made one change to the side that won 1-0 at Hyde on Saturday with striker Rhys Griffiths making his first start for the club in place of Scott Donnelly.
That meant a slight shake-up in attack with Danny Crow dropping deeper and playing just behind Griffiths and Saturday’s match-winner Christian Jolley.
Griffiths thought he had given his new club the lead midway through the first half but his header on the rebound from Jolley’s shot was ruled out for offside.
After a frantic start with County just about on top and Jolley causing the home defence all sorts of problems, the hosts slowly began to impose themselves.
Sam Clucas sliced a great chance wide and Minshull and ex-Hereford defender Tony James combined to block superbly from Chris Sharp, son of Everton legend Graeme.
The Bulls were charging forward and they forced their way into the lead in farcical circumstances just before half-time with two penalties awarded in the space of a minute.
First Marlon Jackson hit the deck in the box and Lenny Pidgeley saved superbly from Marley Watkins but referee Rob Whitton spotted a handball from David Pipe in the melee that followed and O’Keefe made no mistake with the second spot-kick.
Harry Pell, since departed for AFC Wimbledon, had missed a penalty in the match between these two old rivals at Rodney Parade in August before Andy Sandell and Aaron O’Connor sealed a fine 2-0 win for the Exiles.
This time Edinburgh’s side found themselves behind and without their injured top scorer and talisman O’Connor.
Griffiths, making his first start for months, looked a little off the pace and the former Llanelli hotshot struggled to make the most of the high balls pumped up to him from the back. He made way for Donnelly just before the hour mark.
Crow linked play well in a deeper central role but rarely threatened the Hereford goal and was forced off with a hamstring injury midway through the second half with Willmott replacing him.
The raucous County fans, nearly 1,200 of them, began to get at the referee as he waved away a penalty appeal and awarded a free-kick for a foul on home keeper James Bittner as it looked like Jolley would poke the ball in for an equaliser.
Just as the frustration was beginning to get too much for some Sandell beat his man on the left flank and crossed for Minshull to head powerfully home at the far post on 72 minutes.
But the drama wasn’t over yet as Hereford were awarded their third penalty of the match just three minutes later when the ball appeared to hit Pipe’s hand in the area once again and O’Keefe again beat Pidgeley from 12 yards.
This County side never know when they are beaten, however, and with just ten minutes remaining Minshull climbed high to fire another bullet header past Bittner and send the amber army wild with joy behind the goal.
And when Willmott netted the winner Edgar Street was rocked to its foundations.
The fans will really believe their side can go all the way after this massive three points.
Hereford: Bittner, Connor, Graham, Watkins (Smikle, 58), Jackson, Sharp, Stam, James, Clucas, O’Keefe, Musa Subs not used: Gallinagh, Heath, Carruthers, McDonald Booked: O’Keefe, Bittner
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, James, Yakubu, Anthony, Sandell, Flynn, Minshull, Jolley, Crow (Willmott, 67), Griffiths (Donnelly, 58) Subs not used: Julian, Hughes, Thomson Booked: Sandell
Referee: Rob Whitton (Braintree)
Attendance: 2,519 (1,162 County)
Argus star man: Lee Minshull