Exiles still flying high
AS OLYMPIC fever finally dies down and the nation welcomes football back into its collective bosom, it’s worth reminding yourself that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.
Three games, three wins, nine points and 10 goals; those figures make great reading for Newport County AFC, who have been faster out of the blocks than Usain Bolt.
Manager Justin Edinburgh will ensure his players keep their feet planted firmly on the ground but he’ll have a job keeping fans’ expectations in check if the results keep coming.
The Exiles sit proudly at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier League, the only team with a perfect record. And with more than 3,000 fans packed into Rodney Parade on Saturday it’s hard to see how the campaign could have started any better.
But the second-half showing against Lincoln City is a sign that Edinburgh’s side will not have everything their own way between now and next April.
County raced into a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to two more goals from man of the moment Aaron O’Connor and looked set to repeat the 4-0 hammering they handed out to Nuneaton.
But they were caught cold at the start of the second period and almost let a much-improved Lincoln City escape with a point.
Edinburgh was delighted that his new-look side managed to hold on for a third straight league win – the first time County have done that since the end of the 2010-11 season.
He will also have been pleased that they showed another side to their character, digging deep and defending well in a game they would no doubt have lost last season.
And in O’Connor they have a new star who is proving to be one of the best signings by any club in the division this summer.
How Edinburgh persuaded Luton Town to let him leave for nothing is a mystery.
Five goals in three games is impressive enough but he continues to insist that he is not fully fit. If that’s true then good luck to the opponents when he is finally 100 per cent.
His first goal on Saturday came after just seven minutes as he latched onto a Jefferson Louis through ball and saw his shot helped on its way into the net by the hand of Imps goalkeeper Paul Farman.
The second, 20 minutes later, was made by midfielder Jake Thomson, who exchanged passes with Louis and found O’Connor in space in the box.
The striker looked to have lost his chance as he took the time to control the ball and turn 180 degrees towards goal but he found the corner of the net via the post with unerring accuracy.
He could have wrapped up his hat trick before the break after Max Porter and Danny Crow combined beautifully, only for O’Connor to blast over from the edge of the box.
County’s new home was buzzing but everyone got a real wake-up call after the interval as first Andrew Boyce headed over and then Jamie Taylor headed in from close range on 51 minutes.
That goal changed the whole mood on the pitch and on the terraces and David Holdsworth’s men will feel a little aggrieved not to have earned a draw.
Things certainly got a little nervy for the first time on Parade as Taylor hit the side netting and the visitors racked up the corners.
Lenny Pidgeley came under a lot of pressure and dealt with most balls well and Louis proved he is a real asset in defence as well as up front.
But the main man at the back for the Exiles was Ismail Yakubu, who was a rock all afternoon.
His influence was summed up as he defended a free kick on the edge of the County box with a little over 10 minutes to go and made two excellent blocks followed by two clearances all in the space of 30 seconds.
At the other end super- sub Jake Harris would surely have added a third goal in injury time had he not been hacked down by Gary Mills, but by that stage everyone was more than happy to settle for a 2-1 win and three more precious points.
County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Sandell, James, Yakubu, Porter, Evans (Flynn, 56), Thomson, Crow, Louis (Harris, 90), O’Connor (Charles, 77).
Subs not used: Hughes, Perry.
Lincoln: Farman, Nutter, Mills, Boyce, Smith (Sheridan, 61), Power, Duffy (McCammon, 45), Taylor, Gray, Miller, Daley (Nicolau, 83).
Subs not used: Hutchinson, Turner.
Ref: Lee Swabey (Plymouth).