NEWPORT County AFC’s on-off-on-off bid for League One is back on after a superb, gutsy win against fellow promotion hopefuls Bolton Wanderers.

The Exiles became the first team to beat the Trotters since January thanks to Nicky Maynard’s fast reaction and fine finish after 63 minutes, a goal that ended the visitors’ 14-game unbeaten streak in League Two.

It looked like Bolton might snatch a point four minutes into injury time but Alex Baptiste’s header was somehow stopped on the line by goalkeeper Nick Townsend and a load of bodies in amber, with the men in white howling at the officials at the lack of a goal.

It was a fantastic victory against an impressive side; County mixed first-half fortune with second-half resilience to end a three-game losing streak on their return to Rodney Parade.

The Wanderers still look a quality side likely to go up automatically but the Exiles have doubled them and this second success keeps them seventh in the table, and still somehow with the potential of making the top three sweat.

South Wales Argus:

County were fortunate to head into the break on level terms after Bolton wasted a glut of chances.

The Exiles then had to field a makeshift central defensive partnership of Matty Dolan and Scot Bennett, one man playing in a four for the first time after being converted to the back and the other most comfortable in midfield.

However, they hit the front just past the hour with a classic poacher’s finish by veteran striker Maynard, who had his best game in amber but sadly won’t be able to build on it against parent club Mansfield on Friday.

County then held firm with Dolan and Bennett plus full-backs Liam Shephard and Aaron Lewis putting in superb display, although every player that took to the field played their part.

It was a performance that won three points but it felt more important than that in the context of the season. Now they must back it up at Mansfield.

County were forced into one change with centre-back Mickey Demetriou missing his first League Two game of the campaign after his dismissal at Barrow for a second yellow card.

Michael Flynn stuck with three at the back with David Longe-King making his first start since mid-February on the left of Dolan and Priestley Farquharson back from injury on the right.

The other change saw Maynard get the nod alongside Ryan Taylor up front while there was still no place in the matchday squad for creative midfielder Luke Gambin.

South Wales Argus:

Bolton included four Welshmen in Gethin Jones, MJ Williams, Declan John and Lloyd Isgrove plus in-form experienced frontman Eoin Doyle, who had a brief spell with Cardiff in 2015.

His first sight of goal came after just three minutes and he should have scored but hit the bar from a cross from the right.

From one experienced forward to another in a frantic start – County went straight down the other end and Maynard forced a smart stop from Matt Gilks when he turned and shot powerfully after a Farquharson long throw.

However, it was the Wanderers on the front foot with Doyle close again when he got onto a long ball, took it past Nick Townsend with his first touch but the angle was too wide and Longe-King got back to cover.

County had to weather a mini-storm and it was with some relief that they were still on level terms as the clock hit 20.

Bolton were slick and full of confidence but the Exiles settled and cause the visitors some problems from set pieces and with Farquharson’s long throw.

The visitors should have been in front after 38 minutes and it would have been of County’s own making with playmaker Josh Sheehan gifting away possession on the edge of his area.

The ball was rolled across the box by Isgrove but Kieran Lee failed to get a touch.

The Wanderers finished the half with a flourish with Doyle whipping a left-footed shot into the side netting before a remarkable miss by Lee.

Jones bombed down the right, hit a peach of a cross but the midfielder somehow headed wide from in front of the goal.

County were undoubtedly lucky to be on level terms at the break and they walked slowly to their changing room while Bolton jogged back with intent.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn made a half-time change with Wales Under-21s international Lewis Collins on for Longe-King, a substitution that led to a change to a back four and the new man operating on the right of midfield.

County made a steady start to the second half while Wanderers failed to pick up where they left off against the new shape.

Flynn was soon forced into another change when Farquharson pulled up, forcing the introduction of Joe Ledley with a makeshift central combination of Bennett and Dolan.

At that point the most pressing question was whether County could hold on. Instead they hit the front in the 64th minute.

A handball allowed Josh Sheehan to whip in a free-kick and it came off Ricardo Almeida Santos and forced Gilks into a superb save to his left.

However, the ball stayed in and Maynard showed that the first five metres is in the mind to react quickly to fire home from a tight angle.

Suddenly County had something to hold onto – they must have wished that the pitch was still a bog to make creativity an issue.

Yet they almost had a buffer on 77 minute when Maynard did well to work a shooting opportunity only for Gilks to get down well at his near post to stop the powerful drive.

That was the scorer’s final act with his superb shift ended after 80 minutes, the 34-year-old making way for 42-year-old Kevin Ellison.

Bolton were taking more and more chances but failed to work Townsend with the chances that came their way.

County were clock-watching and made it to the fourth minute of five added on before getting a scare.

Thankfully Townsend literally put his body on the line to ensure three points didn’t turn into one.

The Exiles probably would have settled for a point before the game but enjoyed a magnificent maximum haul.

County: Townsend, Farquharson (Ledley 59), Dolan, Longe-King (Collins 45), Shephard, Lewis, Bennett, Sheehan, Labadie (captain), Maynard (Ellison 80), Taylor.
Substitutes: King, Amond, Scrimshaw, Telford.
Yellow: Bennett
Goal: Maynard

Bolton: Gilks, Jones, Williams, Almeida Santos, Delfouneso, Doyle (captain), Isgrove, Thomason, Baptiste, John, Lee.
Subs: Jensen, Maddison, Tutte, Miller, Brockbank, Afolayan, Elbouzedi.

Referee: Graham Salisbury