NEWPORT County AFC returned to form to ensure Port Vale shared some of their promotion frustration in League Two.

The Exiles, fresh from having their play-off hopes ended, triumphed 2-1 in the Potteries to prevent their hosts from going back into the top three ahead of the last day action.

Wing-back Ryan Haynes thumped County in front in the third minute and they bossed the first half only to be pegged back five minutes after the restart by Ben Garrity.

Vale were on top yet the Exiles regained the lead through star man Finn Azaz and then showed control to take the spoils.

Here are the talking points from Vale Park…


Where was this County over the past month? Had they played like this then it could easily have been them heading into Saturday right behind Exeter and Forest Green rather than Northampton.

The table doesn’t lie, the Exiles haven’t been good enough for the play-offs yet this performance showed their quality and potential.

The challenge for James Rowberry will be to recruit and retain well to keep the good parts and also tighten up in certain aspects.

However, they showed a resilience at 1-1 to go with the quality that had earned a deserved 1-0 lead that could easily have been doubled.

There was a savviness to kill the Vale momentum with players going down for treatment and walking to get the game restarted.

Those dark arts and game management are as important as the magic moments from the likes of Azaz in a promotion challenge.

County emptied the tank in a dead rubber with Dom Telford sitting on the floor, shattered, at the final whistle and others gasping for air.

They showed real character in a dead rubber, one that should earn a slab of beers from Northampton if the Cobblers win at Barrow on Saturday.

South Wales Argus:


Ultimately it is the four-game losing streak at Rodney Parade – Hartlepool, Exeter, Crawley, Colchester – that has cost County.

They need to beat Rochdale on Saturday to try and match their away record this season – at home it is W9 D6 L7 and away it finished W10 D6 L7.

That includes a healthy haul on the road against those that are chasing promotion, taking 13 points from a possible 27 against the top nine.

They beat Bristol Rovers, Port Vale, Swindon and Tranmere, drew at Exeter and lost at Forest Green, Northampton, Mansfield and Sutton.

With a round of games to go, 11th-placed County are 13th in the table for home form and fifth in the away table.

Monday’s game highlighted both the importance of home backing and the pressure that it brings.

Vale had nearly 9,000 home fans roaring them on but they quickly grew impatient in the first half, groaning at any passes that went backwards and imploring the side to be more direct.

Granted, their punters were frustrated at a three-game losing streak that could even cost the Valiants a play-off spot, let alone top three, but it showed the value of supporters knowing what you are trying to do.

Michael Flynn was able to lay the foundations for County playing on the deck and building from the back behind closed doors.

Rowberry is trying to build on that possession-based style with defenders being comfortable on the ball and finding the midfielders in pockets of space.

Getting home fans aligned with that is vital.


It didn’t need the Sky Sports cameras to make Azaz a summer target for plenty of clubs up the pyramid.

Aston Villa signed the midfielder from West Brom at the end of last season and have a serious talent on their hands, one who has grown and grown over the course of this campaign.

The 21-year-old looked a little fragile and fluctuating when he first arrived but is now grabbing hold of games and is consistently good.

He set up the first for Haynes wonderfully at Vale and then won it with his controlled volleyed finish with his weaker left foot.

Vale couldn’t cope with him in the first half and then he helped ensure they couldn’t rally for a second leveller.

The exciting part is that there is still so much room for improvement and his next loan move will be a fascinating one, with a number of Championship clubs sure to already be registering their interest with Villa.

Scott Twine looked seriously special when he spent the first half of last season in Newport and has gone on to star in League One with MK Dons.

He is destined for top-end Championship at least and the same goes for wonderful Azaz, while County have to find a replacement.

South Wales Argus: Josh Pask was on the left of a defensive threeJosh Pask was on the left of a defensive three


County went back to their 3-5-2 at Vale Park and it worked a treat against the hosts’ same shape.

Matty Dolan was excellent at the heart of the defensive three, helping to build from the back but also knowing there is a time and a place.

The Exiles seemed more solid when under the pump while it helped to revive their attack with an improved shot count of 10 (which would have been higher had they not killed the game at the end).

Perhaps that was just down to playing with more freedom but it will be interesting to see what formation Rowberry goes with against Rochdale on Saturday, and on July 30 when the new season gets under way.