GRAHAM Coughlan faces a task to keep a lid on Newport County AFC excitement after a 3-0 win at Walsall to continue the charge up League Two.

The Exiles took the spoils at Bescot Stadium after bossing the first half then protecting their three-goal lead to secure a clean sheet, and another climb up the table to 11th.

County made a perfect start to lead 2-0 thanks to Bryn Morris’ deflected strike in the fourth minute, credited by some to Seb Palmer-Houlden, then Will Evans’ solo effort in the 15th.

It was three before the break courtesy of early substitute Harry Charsley’s looping header from a long throw in the 38th minute.

The second half was a professional job by the Exiles with the minutes ticked off, with Walsall’s misery added to when goalkeeper Owen Evans was sent off for handling outside his area with four to go.

The feelgood factor continues after the FA Cup run, Huw Jenkins’ takeover and a seven-game unbeaten run in League Two, the last four of them wins.

Coughlan will ensure that none of his squad get carried away with talk of the play-offs – and they face a key week featuring home games against Notts County and Gillingham – but they have stormed up the table after getting players off the treatment table.

That they were able to have three travelling reserves, Harrison Bright, Matty Bondswell and Kiban Rai, in the West Midlands contrasted starkly to the painful autumn.

Coughlan named the same XI and bench as the 2-1 win against Swindon with midfielder Charsley having to settle for being a substitute again despite impressing in the second half last weekend.

South Wales Argus: DELIGHT: Bryn Morris celebrates putting County in front at WalsallDELIGHT: Bryn Morris celebrates putting County in front at Walsall (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The starters were sluggish in the first half against the Robins but were on it from the first whistle in the West Midlands, and got their reward in the fourth minute.

Left-back Adam Lewis laid the ball off to Morris on the edge of the area and the midfielder beat Owen Evans with the help of a deflection, some believing it should go down to Palmer-Houlden for a goal in four successive league games.

Walsall responded well but County held firm against corners before central defender Matt Baker made a superb block in the box after the hosts exploited the limping Aaron Wildig on the counter-attack.

County then doubled their advantage with a sublime solo goal by Evans, who beat his man down the right and then smashed a shot into the top left.

With a two-goal advantage, Coughlan opted not to take any risks with Wildig after he had tried to play on with strapping on his right ankle, Charsley getting into the action early.

Walsall needed a lift but were denied by a Nick Townsend double-save, although it should have been a single one.

Liam Gordon did well with a strong run and hit the target with his left-footed effort from outside the box. Townsend should have held it but got up well to block from Josh Gordon with his body to keep it at 2-0.

It definitely should have been 2-1 on the half hour when Ryan Delaney’s clearance was charged down but young West Brom striker Mo Faal, who faced County with Doncaster earlier in the season, failed to hit the target from inside the box.

That failure was extremely costly – it was 3-0 in the 38th minute.

Adam Lewis had been denied with a free-kick on the edge of the area but County were able to keep the pressure on with a long throw.

Walsall failed to deal with it and Charsley looped a header beyond Evans to spark some home fans to head for the exit, or at least a pint in the concourse.

South Wales Argus: Harry Charsley on the ball for CountyHarry Charsley on the ball for County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

County headed to their changing room – no doubt for warnings about complacency from the manager – with a 3-0 lead but it could have been 4-0 only for James Clarke’s glanced header from a Lewis free-kick to kiss the top of the bar.

The visitors needed to reassert themselves from the restart and did that to get through the opening exchanges without any scares.

A Faal effort was blocked by Clarke and a Tom Knowles curler was a routine save for Townsend as County made it to the hour with their 3-0 intact.

Walsall were better – they couldn’t be much worse – but failed to test Townsend despite getting into promising positions, especially down their left.

The clock was County’s friend and they made it to 77 when Coughlan turned to his bench, changing his strike force with the introduction of Luke Jephcott and Offrande Zanzala.

Walsall’s miserable afternoon continued in the 86th minute when Evans came out of his goal to clear, got it all wrong and was sent off for handling outside his area.

After some confusion, with forward Aramide Oteh initially putting on the yellow number 1 jersey, sub goalie Jackson Smith came on in a change welcomed by the home support.

They booed at the end of six added minutes with the celebrations all at the away end after one of the shortest trips of the season was a very happy one.

County: Townsend, McLoughlin, Baker, Clarke, Delaney (captain), Lewis, Bennett, Morris (Waite 86), Wildig (Charsley 15), Evans (Jephcott 77), Palmer-Houlden (Zanzala 77).
Substitutes: Maxted, Payne, Jameson.
Scorers: Morris, Evans, Charsley.

Referee: Lee Swabey.
Attendance: 5,454 (701County)