WHILE the Port Vale management, players and fans were left scratching their heads as they struggled to comprehend how they lost this game, their Newport County AFC counterparts were wiping brows and punching the air at the final whistle.

This was a match that had everything you’d expect from a blood-and-thunder League Two encounter and, depending on your point of view, it was either a blatant injustice or a brilliant backs-to-the-wall victory.

The hosts were the better side before Scot Bennett pounced on a deflected Josh Sheehan shot to put County ahead after 18 minutes.

Vale deservedly levelled through a close-range Tom Pope header nine minutes later.

Mickey Demetriou was fortunate to avoid scoring his second own goal of the week shortly afterwards as his spectacular diving header beat Joe Day and rebounded off the post to safety.

Substitute Ricky Miller also hit the woodwork after Dan Butler had restored the Exiles’ lead three minutes into the second half from Mark Harris’ clever cut-back.

And Vale felt they were denied a clear penalty when the ball appeared to hit the hand of David Pipe in the area on 65 minutes.

“I have seen the picture of it, it’s a definite handball and it should have been a penalty,” fumed manager Neil Aspin.

“I just don’t know really what to say any more about decisions. I have had an explanation from the referee but it is a penalty, there is no question about that.”

Replays showed that the ball was headed against Pipe’s hand from point-blank range and a penalty would have been very harsh on County, but there was no doubt that the visitors did ride their luck at times.

“I can’t fault the players,” added Aspin. “I thought they have given everything.

“They have tried desperately to win the game, had some back luck with the deflections with the goals they have conceded.

“The one thing that does seem to elude this club, certainly at the minute, is luck. As manager you need luck as well.

“I know you can say you make your own luck, but we are certainly not getting any luck with anything in our favour.”

Exiles boss Michael Flynn acknowledged his side’s good fortune but was delighted with the resilience they showed under heavy bombardment in the final 40 minutes and felt they earned the win.

“When Benno and Buts are scoring you have a good feeling because they don’t even hit the target in training,” he joked.

“It was gritty. They lumped the ball in the box and Pope is a handful but I thought the boys dealt with it tremendously.

“It’s a tough place to come. They hit the post twice and they had a few chances but so did we and I thought, because of the way we defended, we deserved the win.

“We weren’t at our fluent best but the players showed character that they’ll need for the rest of the season.

“There’s going to be some real tough places we go to and we’ve got to dig in and fight to the end, like we did today.”

We are still only a month into the season but the manner of this win will give Flynn and his team great belief and the 223 fans who were there to witness it will be daring to dream of a special campaign ahead.

County: Day; Franks, Bennett, Demetriou; Pipe, Dolan, Bakinson, Butler; Sheehan (O’Brien, 79); Amond (Matt, 60), Harris (Marsh-Brown, 90)

Subs not used: Townsend, Pring, Forbes, Cooper

Referee: Martin Coy

Attendance: 4,385 (223 County)