County back with a bang to stay top of the league
COUNTY 6 CAMBRIDGE 2
NEWPORT County returned to winning ways with a bang that Guy Fawkes would’ve been proud of as they turned up the heat on their Conference rivals.
The Exiles were simply scorching as they put a sparkle back into their performance and arrested a slump of four successive games without victory by hitting Cambridge for six.
On a night where only the crowd was a disappointment, it was Justin Edinburgh’s side who always looked likely victors.
Boss Edinburgh had been hopeful of fielding a revamped forward line tonight with plans to sign another striker still alive, but only loanee Michael Smith was available.
It was a good job too as the Exiles have lost Danny Crow to a suspected torn hamstring and under those circumstances it was no surprise to see Edinburgh revert to the 4-3-3 formation that has worked so well for him.
That left him with tough decisions and he responded by selecting both Mike Flynn and Lee Minshull in his midfield trio at the expense of Lee Evans. With no goals between the pair of them that seemed a big call to make though the presence of the returning Ismail Yakubu was reassuring.
Football is at times frustrating, at times engaging but it’s never predictable and not even Edinburgh could’ve expected his marginal selection choices to pay off so spectacularly, because within 20 minutes Flynn and Minshull had rewarded him with their first goals of the campaign.
It was like the start of the Woking game in reverse, the Exiles burying the memories of their first home league defeat by playing the fast, at times furious, attacking football we’ve been spoiled with this term.
Flynn especially began like a train, pulling the strings and constantly finding the feet of the dangerous dual outlets of Aaron O’Connor and Ben Swallow.
As soon as County put it all together they scored the opener, the ball worked across the midfield to O’Connor who fired into the feet of Minshull who took an assured touch and dispatched the ball beyond Jonathan Hedge.
One became two within 120 seconds of Minshull hitting the net, Flynn finally reminding everyone why he’s spent a decade plying his trade in Leagues One, Two and the Championship.
His stunning effort might not be County’s best of the season but it’ll take some strike to beat it, the ball in all the way as he unleashed a thunderbolt that screamed past Hedge.
But Tom Elliott’s fine control and even better finish on the volley put the Us right back in contention with less than half an hour played.
The Exiles never for a second looked ponderous or daunted after conceding and merely went back to quick breaks that the visitors couldn’t deal with and when Josh Coulson pulled down Flynn just outside the area, you knew what was coming.
Not since the genius of Jason Bowen have the Exiles had a freekick taker with the accuracy of Andy Sandell and he used his hammer of a left foot to fire Newport 3-1 ahead, albeit via a slight deflection.
The left-back was also in fine form at the other end, denying Michael Gash with a superb block as the visitors pushed for a way back in. It almost arrived on half time only for Pidgeley to tip away another Gash drive before Coulson headed over when he was left unattended at the subsequent corner.
The excitement didn’t let up in the second period with both attacks shining brighter than the boys at the back, making this a fine spectacle.
Substitute Harrison Dunk’s goalbound effort was deflected wide by a despairing Pipe block and O’Connor again went close as each side looked to write the next chapter, close fought contest or runaway home win.
The latter looked more likely and midway through the second half was all but confirmed, Minshull heading down a cross (close enough to the goalkeeper that nine times out of ten it’d be a freekick) and O’Connor was perfectly placed to poke home his easiest goal of the campaign to make it 13 for the season.
This was a strange contest, chances not flowing like champagne but plenty of fizz nonetheless, almost every clear cut chance resulting in a goal.
The pattern continued as Cambridge quickly made it 4-2 when Luke Berry fired home via a deflection on 69 minutes but it was merely another false dawn as County restored a three goal advantage within seconds, Hedge’s woeful clearance punished as O’Connor lobbed him for 5-2.
Hedge was virtually a spectator when he wasn’t picking the ball out of the net, such was County’s clinical touch, but he did pull out a top save to deny Michael Smith as the clock ticked down, Pidgeley emulating the effort with a late save of his own.
But Smith wasn’t to be denied, curling home County’s sixth to put the icing on the cake in stoppage time.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, James, Yakubu (Evans 86), Sandell, Porter, Flynn, Minshull, O’Connor (Thomson 90), Smith, Swallow (Washington 80)
Subs not used: Perry, Louis, Thomson
Booked: Yakubu 67
Cambridge: Hedge, Jennings, Coulson, Wylde, Shaw, Wellard (Pugh 62), Gash (Hughes 68), Elliott, McAuley, Berry, Smith (Dunk, 46)
Subs not used: Pugh, Jarvis, Ross
Referee: Robert Whitton
Argus star man: Mike Flynn