NEWPORT County AFC are up to third after dispatching a struggling Stevenage side, despite being under pressure for large portions of the game.

In a first half of few chances, the hosts looked the more likely to break the deadlock, with Nick Townsend coming to the rescue twice.

But whatever James Rowberry said at half time clearly worked, with Rob Street opening the scoring two minutes into the second half.

A Matty Dolan free kick almost doubled the lead shortly after, but Stevenage then began to pile on the pressure again.

Townsend produced another important stop, diving at the feet of Elliott List as he tried to control a high cross on the edge of the six-yard box.

County went straight down the other end, and Ryan Haynes – a half-time substitute – beat a man and cut in from the left and curled a right-footed finish from distance to secure the three points.

Here are the talking points from The Lamex Stadium…

Digging deep

County certainly weren’t at their best as they travelled to a Stevenage side who were winless in seven, but James Rowberry’s side produced a thoroughly professional performance.

The conditions clearly made it difficult for both teams, with most of the chances produced coming from misjudged headers due to the wind, and there were misplaced passes aplenty from both sides.

South Wales Argus: Rob Street battles Stevenage's Jake Taylor for possession. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.Rob Street battles Stevenage's Jake Taylor for possession. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.

Rob Street said after the game that the goals came at the right time – and that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

After Stevenage took charge of the game towards the end of the first half, that sucker-punch just after half-time was exactly what County needed.

And as pressure began to build once more, Haynes’ stunner eased the burden on the defence – which continued to hold strong.

Other than the goals, there really weren’t many chances that the visitors created, with top scorer Dom Telford having a frustrating day up top trying to make something happen. But it’s these kind of wins, when you’re not playing well, that really cement a side’s promotion ambitions.

Townsend on top form

After a top performance in the win over Bristol Rovers, Nick Townsend was again key in securing another three points.

Townsend was called upon twice to keep the scores level in the first half, with Stevenage beginning to take control of the game, and once again just minutes before Ryan Haynes secured the win.

The County stopper produced a fine save to his right as he pushed a Jake Taylor effort from the edge of the box clear. The ball was then passed back to him, and his clearance ricocheted off the onrushing striker. Fortunately for County, it went clear.

Minutes later, an underhit backpass saw Stevenage break through, but Townsend rushed out to slide to ball away. It came out as far Zain Westbrooke, but Townsend was up again to tip over his ranged effort.

And as Stevenage began to ratchet up the pressure in the second half, Townsend dived at the feet of Elliott List, who was controling a high cross in from the right on the edge of the six-yard box, and got the ball away.

The 27-year-old has been first choice between the sticks since Joe Day lost his place after the 3-0 defeat at Rochdale on December 18, and Rowberry again praised his side’s defensive display as they recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since January.

“That’s back to back clean sheets. I can’t remember the last time we’ve done it since I’ve been here,” said the boss after the game. “I’m delighted.”

Six unbeaten

The win has now extended County’s unbeaten run to six games – three wins and three draws. It’s only currently Carlisle – who the Exiles travel to on Tuesday – who boast more impressive form in the division.

As we enter the business end of the season, the most important thing is picking up points, even when County are not at their best. And if they keep doing that, maybe fans can dare to dream.

South Wales Argus: Ryan Haynes celebrates scoring Newport County's second goal at Stevenage. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.Ryan Haynes celebrates scoring Newport County's second goal at Stevenage. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.

Despite the unbeaten run, Saturday’s goalscorer Rob Street has said the team are purely focused on the next game – and ending Carlisle’s run of four straight wins.

“That’s our main focus, Carlisle away next,” he said. “We’ve got three days to recover, so everyone’s going to recover well and go again.

“People can talk about numbers towards the end of the season but ideally we’re trying to win each game. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself.

“But it’s game-by-game. There’s still so many ups and downs and so many games to go.”

But yet more injuries

Saturday’s win didn’t come without a price for Newport County AFC, with two of the starting XI being forced off by half-time.

It’s something County can scarcely afford, with two more games this week – Carlisle on Tuesday and Hartlepool on Friday.

James Rowberry is already without Josh Pask, Robbie Willmott, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Courtney Senior and Priestley Farquharson, while Oli Cooper also missed the trip to the Lamex Stadium with a knock.

South Wales Argus: James Rowberry could have yet more selection problems on Tuesday due to injuries. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.James Rowberry could have yet more selection problems on Tuesday due to injuries. Picture: Huw Evans Picture Agency.

Saturday saw Aaron Lewis – who had switched to left back with the return of James Clarke from suspension – taken off at half-time as a result of an injury he picked up earlier in the half.

Lewis needed several minutes of treatment after a strong tackle 12 minutes in. He was able to carry on until the break with his leg strapped up, but did not return for the second half.

And Liverpool loanee Jake Cain was also withdrawn through injury a minute before the break.

“Aaron’s got a massive gash on his thigh, which I thought was a terrible tackle,” said Rowberry after the match. “He’s had to have stitches.

“The gash on his leg is not great at all.”

When asked about Cain’s withdrawal, the boss said: “Jake’s got a rib issue.”

He added that he didn’t yet know how serious Cain’s injury was, and when asked about Lewis’ availability for the trip to Cumbria, he said: “We’ll see how it goes.”