Newport County 1 Ebbsfleet United 0

NEWPORT County AFC opened up a five-point gap at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier with a scrappy victory over relegation-threatened Ebbsfleet United.

The visitors came to spoil the party and take a point home with them and they would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that pesky Yak.

Feed the Yak and he will score sang the crowd and, just like at Tamworth on Saturday, that is exactly what Ismail Yakubu did to win another precious three points for the Exiles.

And, with Wrexham not in action and Forest Green surprisingly beaten 2-1 at home by the Lambs, it was enough to put Justin Edinburgh’s team out on their own at the summit.

Tony James, who was celebrating his 34th birthday, and Aaron O’Connor were both passed fit to play and Edinburgh named an unchanged team from the weekend.

There was no early return for Lee Evans and strikers Jake Harris and Conor Washington had to be content with a seat in the stands.

Alongside them were former County heroes Gary Warren and Sam Foley, who departed for Inverness and Yeovil respectively in the summer.

And the Friends Reunited theme continued with one-time Exiles striker, turned defender, turned striker again Phil Walsh earning a place on the Ebbsfleet bench.

None of them had much to watch early on as the game took an age to get going on a cool and wet night in Newport.

Tom Phipp put a fierce drive just over Lenny Pidgeley’s bar on ten minutes and Ben Swallow had the hosts’ first chance midway through the half but his shot didn’t trouble Preston Edwards in the Ebbsfleet goal unduly.

It took a simple set piece to break the deadlock as Yakubu headed in Andy Sandell’s corner from close range after half an hour.

The goal was remarkably similar to the one the defender got on Saturday and took his tally to the season to five.

Why he wasn’t picked up is a mystery but the Nigerian-born cult hero didn’t care and neither did the home supporters.

After strikes at Mansfield, Braintree, Telford and Tamworth it was his first in front of his home fans and it woke everyone up at Rodney Parade, even the Ebbsfleet drummer.

Not that Edinburgh’s men really built on their lead and they were a touch fortunate to go in 1-0 up after Nathan Elder headed straight at Pidgeley from six yards out in stoppage time.

They were out a good five minutes before the visitors for the second half and certainly started as if they’d been told to step it up a gear or two.

David Pipe played in Lee Minshull with a superb defence-splitting ball but the midfielder smashed it onto the bar before the linesman raised his flag.

O’Connor, who was having his quietest game of the season, was also caught offside as he shaped to pull the trigger a few minutes later.

But Ebbsfleet continued to threaten sporadically and the dangerous Louis Soares forced Pidgeley into a sharp reaction save and the stopper did well to hold Patrick Ada’s follow-up.

Swallow had a curler deflected wide on the hour but the best chance fell to O’Connor, usually so deadly in the penalty area.

A fantastic ball from Jake Thomson found Max Porter out wide and the cross fell perfectly for the former Luton man but for once his touch let him down.

By the time he got his shot away the visiting defence were in place to hack it off the line.

It was a rare off night for O’Connor and County against a team who did their best to make life as difficult as possible but not every win has to be a thriller.

And the table certainly makes for thrilling reading for the Amber Army right now.

County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Yakubu, Porter, Minshull, Thomson (Flynn, 70), Swallow (Charles, 68), Crow (Louis, 27), O’Connor

Subs not used: Hughes, Perry

Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Stone, Ada, Lorraine, Marwa (Barrett, 46), Elder (Walsh, 68), Ashikodi, Phipp (Enver-Marum, 57), Howe, Bellamy, Soares

Subs not used: Menz, Greehaigh

Referee: Peter Bankes (Liverpool)

Attendance: 2,453

Argus star man: Yakubu