County climb the table to put cup nightmare to bed

PORTSMOUTH 0 COUNTY 2

NEWPORT County AFC may have crashed out of two cup competitions last week but when it comes to League Two their cup runneth over.

The Exiles put their FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeats behind them with a stunning win at Portsmouth to move up to fourth place in the table.

County remain just three points off top spot but crucially they are now in the play-off places and this victory – only their second away from home in the league – certainly sent out a message that they are genuine contenders.

If they can build on this result to go on an undefeated run on the road and continue their superb form at Rodney Parade then Justin Edinburgh’s men will be challenging for the top three and not just the top seven.

This victory proved that Edinburgh made the right decision in spurning Pompey’s advances and opting to stick with County because he must know that he has a real chance of leading this side to League One.

Conversely Richie Barker’s reign at Fratton Park began with a dispiriting home defeat and he must be sick of the sight of Edinburgh and County after his Crawley Town side were also beaten at home by the Exiles in the JPT in October.

On that occasion County had to fight back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 but this win was much more straightforward.

The visitors had to weather a moderately fierce storm on the south coast but two goals in three second half minutes from Mike Flynn ensured they didn’t sink.

The strikes on 65 and 68 minutes silenced the 15,000 passionate home fans – at least until the final whistle when they showed their displeasure with a loud chorus of boos.

That was music to the ears of the 864 travelling fans who thoroughly enjoyed their day out to League Two big boys and played their part in a brilliant afternoon for everyone with amber in the blood.

Before kick-off things didn’t look promising at all with defensive rock Ismail Yakubu failing a late fitness test – forcing Andy Sandell into the back three and Ryan Jackson into an unfamiliar left wing-back role.

When they were denied what looked a certain penalty in the opening minutes as Christian Jolley was hauled down in the box and Conor Washington was forced off with concussion just before the break it seemed like it may be another away day to forget.

County had started well with that penalty shout, another golden chance for Jolley and three shots from Flynn serving as an early warning system for his later heroics.

But Pompey soon clicked into gear as they looked to impress Barker and they came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half when Patrick Agyemang’s poke towards goal was cleared off the line by a combination of Sandell and Deji Oshilaja.

After the break the hosts saw another effort blocked on the line as Lenny Pidgeley saved impressively from an Agyemang header at point blank range and David Pipe was on hand to make sure it didn’t creep inside the post.

Danny Crow, on for Washington, then immediately released Robbie Willmott on the break and he found Jolley who could only find the side netting when he should have done better.

That was a big let off for Portsmouth but there was to be no reprieve shortly afterwards as Jackson did superbly on the left flank and put the ball on a plate for Flynn to fire into the roof of the net.

And there was barely time for anyone to catch their breath before Flynn doubled his goal tally for the year and doubled his side’s lead three minutes later, hooking in Jackson’s long throw at the far post.

Home sub Jed Wallace hit a post late on but Flynn’s second had killed them off and sealed three points that could be hugely significant come the end of the campaign.

Portsmouth: Carson, Moutaouakil, Devera, Bradley, Barcham, Connolly, Holmes (Wallace, 67), Cooper (Ferry, 80), Agyemang (Bird, 67), Racon, Potts

Subs not used: Sullivan, N’Gala, Padovani, Ertl

Booked: Potts, Cooper

County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Worley, Oshilaja, Sandell, Jackson, Flynn (Minshull, 85), Chapman, Willmott, Washington (Crow, 41), Jolley (Naylor, 80)

Subs not used: James, Barker

Booked: Pidgeley, Worley, Oshilaja, Chapman

Referee: Darren Deadman

Attendance: 15,295 (864 County)

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