Conor Washington stars as County earn first away win
ONE clean sheet, two goals and three points were enough to get Newport County AFC back on track in League Two.
County shrugged off the disappointment of a first home defeat to Morecambe last week by ending Exeter City’s own perfect record at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
It was the Exiles’ first league win on the road this season and ended a run of three draws and a defeat that had seen them slip from the play-off places to mid-table.
And it was richly deserved. Conor Washington was the star of the show with the opening goal and a superb assist for Harry Worley’s second but this was a team effort from Justin Edinburgh’s men.
From the outstanding Lenny Pidgeley in goal to workhorse Chris Zebroski up front the visitors were up for the battle and they were rewarded with a much-needed win.
After weathering an early storm from the Grecians they dominated for long stretches and for once they were clinical in front of goal.
County took their chances when they were on top and defended well with the recalled Ismail Yakubu providing bags of experience and an assuring presence in place of Tom Naylor.
Edinburgh faced a big decision on whether to stick with the man who had gifted Morecambe the win seven days earlier and he got it right.
And the Exiles boss was even able to throw Naylor into the midfield in place of Robbie Willmott for the last 20 minutes, meaning the 22-year-old’s confidence shouldn’t take too much of a dent.
One man who is certainly not short of self-belief at the moment is young striker Washington who is growing in stature with every week.
His goal on 23 minutes came just a minute after Zebroski had spurned a golden opportunity and buried any thoughts that this could be another tale of missed chances for County.
It came from Adam Chapman’s long throw into the Exeter box. The high, looping delivery led to panic in the home defence but Washington kept his head, dropped his shoulder to give himself half a yard and fired in with deadly accuracy.
Mike Flynn probably should have doubled the lead five minutes before the break from Zebroski’s cross but there was plenty of danger at the other end.
Alan Gow headed wide when he seemed certain to level for the hosts and Liam Sercombe brought the best out of Pidgeley with several decent efforts.
County deservedly led at the break, however, and they were pretty comfortable in the second half.
Robbie Willmott forced a smart save from Artur Krysiak and Flynn beat the Exeter goalkeeper but saw his long range effort smack the post and rebound to safety.
The Exiles knew from bitter experience this season that they needed the security of a second goal and it was Washington who stepped up to the plate again.
He turned creator with 20 minutes left on the clock and the former postman delivered a first class turn of pace and a perfect cross for Worley to smash the ball into the roof of the net at the far post.
Yakubu and Worley both had to clear off the line as the hosts pushed hard to find a way back into the game but there was no doubting that County were worthy winners.
And with the likes of Aaron O’Connor, Christian Jolley, Lee Minshull, Max Porter, Byron Anthony and Andy Sandell still to come back into the team, life is suddenly looking a lot rosier for the boys in amber.
Exeter: Krysiak, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Gow (Reid, 72), Davies (Moore-Taylor, 72), O’Flynn, Wheeler (Keohane, 63)
Subs not used: Pym, Doherty, Dawson, Grimes
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Jones (James, 46), Hughes, Yakubu, Worley, Flynn, Chapman, Willmott (Naylor, 70), Washington, Zebroski (Crow, 77)
Subs not used: Stephens, Burge, Jackson
Booked: Worley, Chapman, Willmott
Referee: Darren Bond
Attendance: 4,614 (861 County)
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