AS Newport County fans will remember from two years ago, it’s all about the fine margins in getting promoted.

The key games, the close games, the games where a cigarette paper splits two sides, they are the games you have to win.

But even that probably won’t be enough, because you’ll get some games, like when County played Cambridge in September, when you are dazzlingly good and you don’t get the three points you deserve.

So it becomes imperative to sometimes grind out a result when the other side are a little bit better than you, when you could easily lose, yet somehow you win.

Saturday was one such example.

It’s undeniable that Portsmouth were unlucky, that on another day they’d certainly have scored, might have had a penalty or two and that they produced the better chances and the more frequent attempts at goal.

However, we should keep some perspective in dishing out sympathy and declaring them “much the better side,” as some comments on our website have, because aside from a first half penalty incident that was harsh on Andy Awford’s men, every other gripe depends on your perspective.

Were Pompey unlucky to create 17 chances and fail to score with any of them, or were Newport’s defence once again superb, throwing their bodies on the line to grind out a result? Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2009, but since September, County’s defensive players have played like every contest is a cup final and they run themselves into the ground in pursuit of a clean sheet.

Yes Portsmouth might well have had a penalty, but to blame the referee for the result would be entirely unfair and for anyone to suggest that Pompey are currently superior to the Exiles is frankly ridiculous. County are 18 points ahead of Portsmouth, ten places above them and the ex-Premier League side are just five points clear of the League Two drop zone.

It became abundantly clear after Saturday’s clash that Newport County’s management and players had been seriously annoyed and motivated by the media prior to the game, manager Justin Edinburgh making very clear to the Portsmouth News reporter in attendance on Saturday that a video on their website describing Newport as a long ball team had riled him and his players.

He vocally questioned the video and declared that his team talk had been done for him and his language was colourful and obvious anger a little surprising.

So perhaps a performance where even without being at their best County were always brave and entirely resolute, isn’t so surprising in hindsight. This was a team that had a point to prove.

And in proving their point Newport made it 12 from 12 since their 3-0 reverse at Luton, extending their run to seven wins in their last eight games with a fourth successive victory.

The Exiles might feel they have an image problem, but with over half the campaign gone they’ve just entered the automatic promotion spots and there is no-one who can argue with the post match assessment of ex-County striker Rhys Griffiths who opined simply that the Exiles are a “winning side.”

For all the post and pre-match talk about styles of football, this ended up being a nearly contest, two teams trying to play the right way, but finding themselves hampered not by a bad pitch but difficult conditions and poor execution, Pompey especially guilty of fluffing their lines when their big moments came.

There might have been some contention about Mark Byrne’s 68th minute winner, but it was his first half infringement on Jed Wallace that will really rile Portsmouth, the midfielder admitting to Argus Sport after the game that he felt it was a foul, though didn’t know if it was in the penalty area. It was.

That represented a massive reprieve for the Exiles in a low quality first period, Byrne and Adam Chapman doing their best to get County purring, but Portsmouth held their shape with two banks of four and looked to counter.

Shaun Jeffers got 90 minutes with Chris Zebroski suffering from an ear infection and he impressed, a fine run midway through the half drawing applause even if the finish that followed was wayward.

Joe Day had a quiet first period and it was visiting goalkeeper Paul Jones who had to impress just before the interval, tipping away from Aaron O’Connor when Newport nearly found reward from going route one, Lee Minshull flicking on Joe Day’s punt.

Both sides were bolder after the break and Andy Sandell would’ve expected to score when he sneaked in unnoticed at the back post for a header, but Jones repelled him.

What followed was a strong spell from the visitors who began creating chances as Newport pushed Regan Poole and Ismail Yakubu forward intermittently, Yakubu denying debutant Matt Tubbs brilliantly as he was uncharacteristically ponderous inside the area just before the hour. Tubbs is a scoring sensation at this level but doesn’t enjoy Rodney Parade, because he’s now lost in Newport twice in a season and failed to find the net for two different clubs.

Pompey’s Jed Wallace was a menace all afternoon making his 100th appearance for the Fratton Park outfit and his superb cross deserved far better than being deflected for a throw when he thrashed the ball right across the area.

Byrne’s 25-yarder and the confusion that followed focused the Exiles and they might have extended their advantage before Portsmouth rallied strongly and almost earned a point.

Joe Day saved adroitly from substitute Craig Westcarr and the Exiles endured a horrible pinball in their box as Pompey laid siege, Tubbs again failing to convert a decent chance as Newport’s defenders threw themselves to the ground, blocking everything the visitors could produce.

County had endured and their promotion aspirations might endure as well if they continue to show such spirit.

Newport (5-3-2): Day, Poole, Jones, Yakubu, Jackson, Sandell, Minshull (Klukowski 68), Byrne, Chapman (Porter 88), O’Connor (Howe 84), Jeffers

Booked: Klukowski, Chapman

Subs not used: Stephens, Flynn, Owen-Evans, Crow

Pompey (4-4-2): Jones, Webster, Robinson, Devera, Shorey; Wallace, Ertl (Barcham 73), Hollands (Dunne 89), Atangana, Taylor (Westcarr 76), Tubbs

Booked: Hollands, Jones

Subs not used: Poke, Whatmough, Chorley, Butler

Referee: Michael Bull

Attendance: 4845