NEWPORT County AFC recorded a huge win in their push for the League Two play-offs, and knocked out one of their rivals in the process.

The Exiles beat Crawley Town 2-0 at Rodney Parade thanks to a long-range strike from Liam Shephard early in the second half and a killer blow deep in time added on by Aaron Lewis.

They stay seventh in the table but still have little margin for error and no time for pats on the back – defeat at Exeter on Saturday would see them leapfrogged by the Grecians, and potentially Salford.

For the fifth game on the spin the Exiles failed to score in the first half… somehow.

It was a 0-0 battering with Joss Labadie hitting the post, Padraig Amond striking the bar and constant pressure towards the North Terrace.

The hope was that the pushing would eventually pay off, the fear was that Crawley would make them pay for their wastefulness.

It was the former after 51 minutes when Shephard came forward, was given space and slammed in a shot that found the corner of the net via a slight deflection.

That’s how it stayed until another defender on the rampage sealed it in the 100th minute – Lewis finishing comprehensively.

The Exiles deservedly took the spoils thanks to the energy and endeavour of their front line, the added craftmanship of Anthony Hartigan and then determination to see the job out, with Mickey Demetriou superb at the back.

They avoided a calamity at the death to earn three points and now need to leave Devon with something.

South Wales Argus:

While much of the country was concerned about the arrogance and entitlement of those involved in the European Super League, and revelling in its subsequent collapse, both County and Crawley were trying to earn the riches of League One.

Flynn made three changes to the starting line-up that had played well in defeat to Cambridge – with a shock in goal.

Nick Townsend, fresh from signing a new two-year contract, paid the price for his howler against the U’s with Wales squad ‘keeper Tom King getting the nod.

Wimbledon loanee Anthony Hartigan made his first outing since March 6 in midfield while youngster Lewis Collins got the nod in support of striker Amond.

Influential Matty Dolan was against absent through concussion while targetman Ryan Taylor went from being in the XI to missing out entirely, perhaps in recognition of the visitors’ physicality.

The team was announced at 6pm but Crawley, and the rest of us, had to wait another hour to see whether it was three at the back or four and whether Scot Bennett was a centre-back or midfielder.

It was 3-5-2, with Liam Shephard at the right of a three, but County should have been in front, or at least worked goalkeeper Glenn Morris, before they were tested.

Just 45 seconds had gone when Amond timed a forward run perfectly and pulled the ball back for Collins but the teenager dragged his shot wide of the target.

Morris was called into action after eight minutes when Sheehan whipped in a ball that Bennett flicked towards goal but the stopper was powerless in the 10th minute, only to be saved by his right post.

Captain Labadie cut back onto his left and curled an effort that hit the woodwork and rebounded to Amond, who fired home but was flagged offside.

The noise level from Crawley highlighted that it had been a superb, energetic start by the Exiles, yet it was one without reward.

The hosts had to be careful from set pieces but also needed to up their game when presented with chances to test the Reds, with the delivery from Sheehan and Haynes wasteful from potentially dangerous areas out wide.

It felt like a goal was coming but it remained goalless after half and hour with County asking for a penalty when Collins was tugged in the box and then lamenting a dangerous Haynes whipped corner hitting Crawley’s Tom Nichols but flying just past the near post.

They hit the woodwork for the second time in 43rd minute when the seventh corner of the half was nodded towards goal by Mickey Demetriou only for Amond to hit the bar on the swivel with the ball bouncing to safety.

Both teams opted against changes for the second half and Crawley were able to get higher up the pitch in the opening exchanges.

South Wales Argus:

However, County had the lead that their efforts deserved six minutes after the resumption when Shephard was given space and his shot, with a slight touch off a blocker, eluded Morris.

They had to keep the foot down and were given a warning after 63 minutes when a cross from was thankfully headed straight at King by Davide Rodari.

Crawley, forced into action, were on the front foot and the Exiles were no longer carrying the same attacking threat.

County were given a warning for not providing balls on tees dotted around the pitch perimeter as they looked to hold onto what they had.

Maynard was introduced with 10 minutes left – bringing Collins’ industrious shift to an end – and he was soon to the fore only for neither the veteran striker nor Amond to be able to get a shot off when well placed.

The closing stages were punctured by stoppages and Crawley ended with 10 men after Tom Nichols was shown red for catching Shephard with his left elbow from a long clearance.

That left the visitors up against it for a whopping ten minutes of time added on. They shipped a second nine minutes past the 90 when Labadie and Maynard combined for Lewis to fire home left-footed.

County: King, Shephard, Demetriou, Bennett, Lewis, Haynes, Hartigan, Sheehan, Labadie (captain), Collins (Maynard 79), Amond.
Substitutes: Townsend, Ledley, Gambin, Ellison, Telford, Scrimshaw.
Yellow: Hartigan, Sheehan
Goals: Shephard, Lewis

Crawley: Morris, Davies, McNerney, Tunnicliffe, Craig (captain), Hessenthaler, J Wright, Matthews, Tilley, Nadesan, Nichols.
Substitutes: Nelson, Sesay, Francomb, Powell, Maguire-Drew, Rodari.
Yellow: Davies

Referee: Alan Young