NEWPORT County AFC chalked up three points that few outside the camp saw coming against record-chasing Stockport at Rodney Parade.

If the Exiles were to deny the Hatters a 13th straight League Two win – one that would put them clear of Luton’s class of 2002 for fourth-tier successes – then surely it would be battling for a share of the spoils?

Instead, Newport deservedly recorded a victory to move up to 16th in the table and increase the gap to the relegation zone to seven points.

Graham Coughlan’s men hit the front in first-half stoppage time when Bryn Morris fired home from a Shane McLoughlin free-kick that caught the Hatters napping.

The provider then turned scorer with a cracker after 67 minutes, slamming in an unstoppable left-footed shot from a tight angle.

Stockport struck right at the death to deny their hosts a clean sheet, Tanto Olaofe, prodding in after Nick Townsend dropped the ball under a robust challenge, but the Exiles got what they deserved.

Here are some talking points from their win of the season so far…

South Wales Argus: RETURN: Seb Palmer-Houlden made his first Newport County start since AugustRETURN: Seb Palmer-Houlden made his first Newport County start since August (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Coughlan started how he finished at Mansfield by putting all three of his frontline forwards on together – last season’s top scorer Omar Bogle, this season’s leading marksman Will Evans and fit-again workaholic Seb Palmer-Houlden.

There was something of a surprise with the way that the trio linked up with Evans and the teenage Bristol City prospect pressing with intent up top rather than playing off Bogle, who dropped slightly deeper.

It worked a treat and played to their respective strengths in a real team effort until the knackered Palmer-Houlden came off for Kiban Rai to give it a blast for the last 20.

"We thought that we would use Seb and Will's legs to go in behind," said Coughlan.

"We wanted to get the press on early and emulate the Forest Green and Doncaster games earlier in the season when we had Seb available.

"Any clearances and forward passes could come into Omar's feet; he is good on the turn, switches play and occupies defenders. He could also arrive in the box when we went down the sides.

"The three got the game tactically spot-on and carried out the detail that we asked them to. It was a pleasing performance."

South Wales Argus: OPENER: County celebrate hitting the frontOPENER: County celebrate hitting the front (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County have paid the price for switching off at key moments this season – Salford away stands out – but this time they profited from striking in added time.

They had a solid first half but that turned into an excellent one when they got the crucial first goal.

Morris struck his shot well for his fourth of the campaign but it was a goal that will make Dave Challinor fume; Stockport reacted slowly to get out to the midfielder and goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe will feel he should have done better.

The Exiles won’t care after a well-worked free-kick set them on the way to victory.

South Wales Argus: Lewis Payne heads clear for Newport against StockportLewis Payne heads clear for Newport against Stockport (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


The return of James Clarke and Matt Baker gave County a more rugged look and the decision to put them both with Ryan Delaney in defence was a shrewd one.

Scot Bennett has impressed after being shifted back to the heart of the three in recent weeks and when the team was announced at 2pm I plumped for Baker being in midfield due to his pressing and legs. Instead he was paired with Morris.

County got their tactics spot-on and defended with discipline and concentration, until the closing stages.

The clean sheet is something to strive for in Morecambe on Tuesday, although whether Clarke is up for the task is to be seen after he dug deep for the full 90.


McLoughlin was signed this summer to primarily slot in on the right flank that was vacated by Cameron Norman, a class act who really should have stepped up to League One rather than staying in the fourth tier with MK Dons.

The Irishman is proving to be just as valuable in his own way – he is a shoo-in for the XI, it’s just a case of deciding where to put him.

McLoughlin notched his third assist of the campaign against Stockport then scored his fourth goal.

He is arguably County’s best right-back and left-back, which will allow Coughlan to rotate young loanees Lewis Payne and Matty Bondswell given they are not used to the relentless EFL schedule.

Given that he is comfortable in midfield (and even started his career as a forward), the Exiles knew they were signing a versatile and seasoned campaigner who would fill the boots of Aaron Lewis.

However, they probably didn’t expect him to be well on his way to having his own personal goal of the season competition – this was special, so were both the efforts against Oldham in the FA Cup and the piledriver against Barrow was probably the pick of the bunch.

Four wonderful efforts, but for my money County’s goal of the season so far is still Morris’ sensational long-range strike against Walsall.

There’s still plenty of time for McLoughlin to change that…

County: Townsend, Payne, Clarke, Bennett, Delaney (captain), McLoughlin, Baker, Morris, Evans, Palmer-Houlden (Rai 70), Bogle.

Substitutes not used: Maxted, Bondswell, Waite, Wood, Sanca.

Attendance: 4,053.

Referee: Darren Drysdale.