JUST six days after Newport County AFC supporters headed through the turnstiles at Rodney Parade daring to dream in the FA Cup, they left the ground doing the same in League Two.

The Exiles made it six games without defeat in the league by fighting back to beat Swindon 2-1 thanks to goals by strike partners Will Evans and Seb Palmer-Houlden.

Graham Coughlan enjoyed taking three points for the third game on the spin for the first time as County boss after successes against Doncaster and Wrexham.

That looked unlikely when the Exiles were on a Manchester United comedown in the first half with Swindon frustrated to return to their changing room with the score 0-0.

Paul Glatzel changed that straight after the restart when he timed his run perfectly and beat Nick Townsend.

County responded through Evans, his 20th of a remarkable season, after a slick corner move crafted on the training ground in the 53rd minute and then Aaron Wildig’s lobbed pass set up Seb Palmer-Houlden for the winner with 73 on the clock.

Here are some talking points after the win…


County are in a position that few of us dreamt was possible after a summer of disappointing departures and financial fears.

They head into February with one bookie pricing them as 500/1 to go down because of their 18-point gap to the relegation zone featuring Sutton and Forest Green, who have both won just four games all season.

County aren’t looking over their shoulder, they are targeting those above them and it has to be said that they ARE contenders, albeit outsiders, for the play-offs.

At the moment it looks likely to be an almighty scrap for seventh place, currently held by Notts County.

Clubs down to 15th-placed Walsall, who will go above the Exiles if they win their game in hand on Tuesday, are in the mix.

Coughlan’s side are just four points behind the Magpies and if they are still in contention after a tough February then we can really dream.

This month County travel to Walsall, host Notts County and 10th-placed Gillingham, then travel to sixth-placed MK Dons and eighth-placed Harrogate.

That tough run is followed by back-to-back games with a pair of sides hunting automatic promotion with Mansfield heading to Rodney Parade and a trip to Stockport.

County are in terrific form with 14 points out of a possible 18 since the pre-Christmas loss at Wrexham but at the moment it still feels like they are just short of being a play-off side.

That assessment will change if they keep the run going in this tricky month that pits them against tough teams.

South Wales Argus: TRICK: Shane McLoughlin tries to get down the flank for County against SwindonTRICK: Shane McLoughlin tries to get down the flank for County against Swindon (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


It came as no surprise that County were flat in the first half with the game coming just six days after the Manchester United tie.

That should have been costly against a Swindon side who will cause teams all manner of problems in the second half of the campaign.

The Robins boast plenty of attacking talent after a busy January with pace, trickery and options off the bench.

They will be feeling like County have for much of the season – they created big chances but just didn’t work Nick Townsend enough.

The Robins struck the post at the start of game through Dawson Devoy’s free-kick and in added time when Harry McKirdy shot from distance.

Former County loanee McKirdy is a colourful character who rubs plenty up the wrong way but you’d be callous to not wish him a bit of luck over the run-in after he underwent heart surgery last summer.

He showed enough flashes in this cameo that he will thrive back at Swindon after his deadline day return.

However, he was on the losing side thanks to County shaking off their FA Cup hangover after going a goal down.

The introduction of the excellent Harry Charsley at half-time and a change of formation helped but this was another win that you could put down to the players showing heart from a tricky position.

South Wales Argus: WINNER: Seb Palmer-Houlden puts Newport County 2-1 up against SwindonWINNER: Seb Palmer-Houlden puts Newport County 2-1 up against Swindon (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County were 2-1 up yet still ended the game with three forwards on the pitch after Coughlan decided attack was the best form of defence.

The manager doesn’t yet have a selection headache up front because the form of Evans and Palmer-Houlden means you can ink them onto the teamsheet for Walsall already.

However, he was able to leave Kiban Rai out of the matchday squad and took the opportunity to give new signing Luke Jephcott and fit-again Offrande Zanzala run outs off the bench.

It’s fair to say that both were rusty – Coughlan said afterwards that he will look to set up some behind closed doors games in the coming weeks – but they will profit from 15 minutes on the pitch included added time.

Omar Bogle was doing fitness work with Declan Drysdale on the pitch at 11am so Coughlan is soon going to be spoilt for choice.

South Wales Argus: CORNER: Luke Jephcott kills the clock for County on his debutCORNER: Luke Jephcott kills the clock for County on his debut (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County have climbed to seventh on the table for home results and they haven't lost at Rodney Parade since being beaten by Harrogate at the start of October, a defeat that came shortly after the only other loss to Bradford.

The Exiles have eight remaining games on home soil and it’s a chance to build on the feelgood factor provided by the Wrexham win, FA Cup run and Huw Jenkins takeover.

The challenge will be to keep the attendances high after recent high-profile fixtures – Gillingham, Morecambe, Crawley and Accrington don’t quite have the same pull – but the team are doing their bit.

And if there is a play-off push…