THIS had the feeling of a must-win game for Newport County AFC and they duly bagged all three points thanks to an own-goal after a much-improved second-half display.

Cheltenham’s Chris Hussey was the unfortunate man to settle a tight contest as he diverted Padraig Amond’s shot in nine minutes after the restart.

And the Robins had fellow defender Will Boyle sent off late on as County claimed another home win.

After back-to-back away defeats at Colchester United and Northampton Town, manager Michael Flynn admitted that his side’s away form was not good enough to sustain a top-seven challenge.

It is 12 defeats on the road in the league so far this season and one of those was at Cheltenham in November.

The Exiles also went out of the Checkatrade Trophy on penalties at Whaddon Road in December.

But they gained revenge at a rain-soaked Rodney Parade and climbed to 11th in the League Two table, five points behind seventh-placed Colchester having played the same number of games.

Ade Azeez was recalled in place of Joss Labadie, who joined Andrew Crofts, Matty Dolan and Fraser Franks on the injury list.

That meant a slightly deeper role for top scorer Amond behind Azeez and Jamille Matt in a return to the formation that had worked well in the last home match against Carlisle United two weeks ago.

But, while the pace of Azeez worried the Cheltenham back line, County didn’t create many clear-cut chances in the first half.

Matt saw a tame header easily gathered by Scott Flinders early on and Amond’s only sight on goal ended with a fine block by Charlie Raglan.

At the other end, Jordan Tillson’s half-volley was easily held by Joe Day and Billy Waters went closest with a low drive from the edge of the area that fizzed just wide.

South Wales Argus:

Matt could have had a penalty for some obvious shirt-pulling in the box but referee Lee Swabey was not interested.

And Scot Bennett blasted a shot well over the bar from 20 yards just before the break.

That was an effort that summed up the first half – plenty of endeavour from both sides, but precious little quality or composure at the key moments.

There were a few boos from the home fans as the whistle sounded for half-time and Flynn opted to change things for the second half with David Pipe and Josh Sheehan replacing O’Brien and Tyreeq Bakinson.

It had the desired effect as the Exiles began the second half with much greater urgency and they were deservedly ahead in the 54th minute.

It was credited as an own goal by Hussey, but it was all down to the instinct and ingenuity of Amond as he ran onto a lofted free-kick and cleverly lobbed Flinders.

The Robins’ keeper managed to get his hands to the ball but only succeeded in clawing it over the line via Hussey’s head.

It should have been 2-0 when Matt took advantage of a mistake by Newport-born Ryan Broom to advance on Flinders, but the keeper was out quickly to win their personal duel and smother the danger.

South Wales Argus:

Robbie Willmott also went close with a header from Dan Butler’s cross and Azeez tried his luck from distance, while Mickey Demetriou’s volley sailed out of the stadium.

The visitors still posed a threat, with Boyle heading wide and Day doing well to deny Walters.

But Boyle’s red card for hauling down Matt and denying a goal-scoring opportunity 15 minutes from time eased most of the nerves around Rodney Parade.

Matt almost got the goal his second-half performance deserved as he lashed a shot just wide 10 minutes from time and Azeez was denied by Flinders late on, before Tillson headed over at the other end.

But one was enough to get County back to winning ways and earn a vital three points ahead of their enforced two-week break thanks to next Saturday’s home clash with Oldham Athletic being postponed.

County: Day; Poole, O’Brien (Pipe, 46), Demetriou; Willmott, Bennett, Bakinson (Sheehan, 46), Butler; Amond; Azeez, Matt (McKirdy, 90)

Subs not used: Townsend, Forbes, Kennedy, Marsh-Brown

Booked: Sheehan, Matt

Referee: Lee Swabey

Attendance: 3,192 (242 Cheltenham)

Argus star man: Amond