DOM Telford broke through the 20-goal barrier as Newport County AFC maintained their promotion charge with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Barrow in League Two.

The Exiles made it four victories on the spin to remain third in the table and close to within a point of Tranmere, who were hammed 4-0 at home by leaders Forest Green Rovers.

County led 2-0 at the break thanks to Telford’s double, the first a looped header after 94 seconds and the second a delightful, curled left-footed finish in the 12th minute.

However, they didn’t have things all their own way and had to dig deep against a Barrow side who were a real threat with balls into the box.

The Bluebirds certainly looked a much better side than some of their fellow strugglers and deservedly got back into the game after 62 minutes when County captain Mickey Demetriou was unfortunate to deflect into his own net.

This was a character test for the Exiles swiftly after they came through one by digging deep to win 1-0 at Leyton Orient.

Once again they emerged with the three points but only after Ollie Banks wasted a glorious chance with four minutes to go, heading wide with a close-range header.

Telford, who became the first County scorer to hit 20 goals in the EFL since John Aldridge, will rightly get the headlines but this was a win earned by resilience as well as the flashes of quality from the usual suspects.

County are blessed to have Finn Azaz and Ollie Cooper for the season – the loan duo already look good enough for the Championship.

The success sets up a vital February with County heading to promotion rivals Forest Green and Northampton before a run of five games on home soil.

It’s not over-egging it to suggest the next month will shape whether the Exiles are hunting the top three or the play-offs.

South Wales Argus: Jake Cain on the ball for CountyJake Cain on the ball for County

County made three changes to the side that started at Orient with fit-again Finn Azaz and Telford returning in midfield and up front respectively while James Clarke came in at the heart of the defence.

He replaced on-loan Coventry defender Josh Pask, who played with knee strapping at Orient after limping off at Scunthorpe.

County featured Rob Street on the bench after the young Crystal Palace striker’s midweek arrival on loan while Jamie Devitt, who spent the first half of last season at Rodney Parade, was a substitute for Barrow.

The Exiles led for just 10 minutes, including five added on, at Orient in midweek but had their noses in front just 94 seconds on home soil.

Telford did well to win a throw that Cameron Norman launched into the box, Barrow failed to deal with it and the ball bounced for the striker to nod a looping header beyond Paul Farman.

That made it 20 for the season for the in-form forward and he soon had 20 in League Two to add to his solitary strike in the EFL Trophy.

County countered and Azaz, who was sublime again, played the ball to Telford down the right and Barrow, bizarrely, allowed him to cut in on his left to curl in a wonderful shot.

The analysts will have warned the defenders about him cutting in but this was a goal to show that stopping it is another matter.

The Exiles were in command after just 12 minutes and could have stretched further away when Ollie Cooper’s pass just eluded Courtney Baker-Richardson on the break before Telford was denied by a block in the box, when he stayed on his feet rather than going down under a slightly clumsy challenge.

Exiles stopper Nick Townsend was called into action on the half hour when he had to first palm a corner away and then claim another set play after it ricocheted off Barrow’s James Jones from Baker-Richardson’s clearance.

The Bluebirds were having a purple patch and Clarke did just enough to prevent physical forward Aaron Amadi-Holloway from slotting.

The visitors were applying pressure from corners (six of them in the first half), long throws and crosses and Amadi-Holloway should have made it 2-1 with a header after 37 minutes only for the well-positioned Townsend to slap it away.

County wasted a couple of chances to strike on the counter and almost paid the price when a ball was swung into the box in injury time.

The delivery from Ollie Banks was on the money between Mickey Demetriou and Townsend but Tom Beadling failed to connect.

South Wales Argus: DENIED: Dom Telford is forced wideDENIED: Dom Telford is forced wide

Barrow started the sharper in the second half yet it was Farman who had to deal with the clearest chance after 55 minutes when he blocked Baker-Richardson’s shot from the angle with his feet.

The Bluebirds got the goal that they deserved in the 63rd minute when Anthony Glennon fired in a dangerous cross that fizzed over an attacker’s head and forced Townsend into a diving save. Unfortunately, he palmed it straight into Demetriou and into the net.

Manager James Rowberry responded by bringing on the experience of Robbie Willmott for Liverpool prospect Jake Cain.

Yet another chance on the counter was wasted when on-the-charge left-back Ryan Haynes was ignored before a poor Telford attempted pass to Azaz.

Street came on for his debut after 74 minutes when replacing Baker-Richardson, who ran himself into the ground again, and was promptly wrestled to the ground in the box from a long throw.

Nothing was given by referee Craig Hicks – welcome to League Two.

The Palace loanee was then brought down by Remeao Hutton on a four-on-two counter-attack, an excellent foul by the Barrow man that was well worth the booking.

Cooper was denied by Farman as the Exiles hunted the winner but they were lucky to still be in front after Banks failed to hit the target with a thumping header, Townsend rooted to the spot.

After stirring comebacks against Sutton and Port Vale in December, the Exiles narrowly avoided being the victims of an impressive fight back.

County: Townsend, Norman, Clarke, Demetriou (captain), Haynes, Bennett, Cain (Willmott 64), Azaz, Cooper, Telford (Dolan 88), Baker-Richardson (Street 74).
Substitutes: Day, Lewis, Waite, Collins.
Yellow: Norman.
Goals: Telford (2)

Barrow: Farman, Brough, Platt, White, Jones, Beadling, Glennon, Hutton, Amadi-Holloway, Banks (captain), James.
Substitutes: Brown, Devitt, Harris, Wakeling, Williams, Ntihe.
Yellow: Brough, Banks, Hutton, Glennon.
Goal: Demetriou (OG)

Referee: Craig Hicks
Attendance: 4,080 (73 from Barrow)