NEWPORT County AFC swung from a Milton Keynes low to a Harrogate high to return to winning ways in style in League Two.

Graham Coughlan’s side, as they so often do, responded to a disappointment at the Dons by beating the Sulphurites 4-1 at Wetherby Road.

It was a victory to lift County to tenth in the table, a point off the manager’s first target of 50 and just two back on seventh-placed Gillingham in the unlikely play-off challenge.

The Exiles led 2-0 at the break after completely bossing the first half against a Harrogate side who, like County, are surprise contenders for the top seven after being tipped to battle against the drop.

Will Evans rewarded their dominance from the penalty spot after half an hour – becoming a 20-goal striker in the league in the process – and that was swiftly followed by Offrande Zanzala’s finish from close range.

It was a magic moment for the striker, who was on the scoresheet for the first time in 14 months after a long road back from ruptured knee ligaments.

Zanzala made it a double six minutes after the restart and then his replacement Seb Palmer-Houlden smashed in a superb goal with 20 to go.

Coughlan’s night was spoiled by George Thomson’s coolly-taken consolation in the 78th minute to deny a clean sheet.

Nonetheless, after being given the runaround by MK, this was just the tonic and now County can relish a chance to go up against pace-setting Mansfield at Rodney Parade on Saturday.

It is a chance to make another statement of intent after beating Stockport and Wrexham in Newport.

South Wales Argus: OPENER: Will Evans scored from the penalty spot for Newport County at HarrogateOPENER: Will Evans scored from the penalty spot for Newport County at Harrogate (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Coughlan made three changes to his starting line-up from the 3-0 defeat at Milton Keynes, one of them enforced with Shane McLoughlin missing a first league game of the campaign after limping off in Buckinghamshire.

Lewis Payne took his place at right-back while centre-back Kyle Jameson came in for James Waite, allowing Scot Bennett to move to midfield, and Zanzala started up front instead of Seb Palmer-Houlden.

It was Jameson’s first start since a hip injury suffered in August and Zanzala was in the XI for the first time since February 25 of last year after rupturing knee ligaments.

Palmer-Houlden and Waite dropped down to the bench where they were joined by fit-again central defender Declan Drysdale.

County made a much more solid start in Harrogate than they did in MK, albeit neither side created a chance in the opening exchanges.

The first opportunity came in the 10th minute when Evans drilled a cross in from the left that was scrambled clear with Zanzala lurking.

Evans was agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the 18th minute but couldn’t quite get to Scot Bennett’s flick-on from a corner, with the striker grumbling about a potential penalty.

The Exiles were on top against a home side struggling to get anything going, low on confidence despite their league placing.

They had another chance in the 25th minute when Bryn Morris stole possession from the dithering Abraham Odoh but failed to make the most of the opportunity with his shot blocked behind by Anthony O’Connor.

Evans then had an opportunity from the resulting corner but failed to hit the target after getting to Adam Lewis’ delivery from the left.

The pressure was building and captain Scot Bennett climbed high from another Lewis corner in the 28th minute but his header was blocked in front of goalkeeper James Belshaw by the offside Zanzala.

However, County got their lead on the half hour after Liam Gibson completely misjudged a long ball by Jameson and handled to allow Evans to score from the spot.

It soon became a two-goal lead with Zanzala perfectly placed to score from close range after a superb save by Belshaw from a Wildig volley and then second effort by the midfielder.

Harrogate had an effort of sorts after 41 minutes, although Josh March’s scruffy effort was never in danger of forcing Nick Townsend into action.

County were in complete control and should have mirrored their accomplishment from Walsall by making it 3-0 before the break but Evans was off-target with an unmarked header when Payne whipped in a cross from the right.

South Wales Argus: CLINCHER: Offrande Zanzala made it 3-0 for County at HarrogateCLINCHER: Offrande Zanzala made it 3-0 for County at Harrogate (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Harrogate showed a bit more intent on the resumption but the Exiles earned breathing space in the 52nd minute.

A free-kick was launched towards the box, Bennett climbed high and the ball went through to the unmarked Zanzala to score from six yards.

Harrogate were in all sorts of trouble and captain Josh Falkingham dragged down Morris after being dispossessed, saved from a red card by a covering defender.

Home boss Simon Weaver, who had made one change early in the second half, then made his four remaining substitutions in the 57th minute on a night that had not gone to plan for the Yorkshire side.

Coughlan soon followed by protecting Zanzala as he works towards full sharpness with Palmer-Houlden given a blast for the last half hour.

The Bristol City prospect made it four with a cracker in the 70th minute with Lewis drilling a ball into the striker to lay-off to Evans and then receive his pass in behind. Palmer-Houlden worked a yard and smashed in his eighth of the campaign.

Harrogate responded when Thomson beat Townsend with a calm finish into the bottom left corner, but it was only a consolation in a one-sided encounter.

Harrogate scorers: Thomson.

County: Townsend, Payne (Bright 82), Baker, Clarke, Jameson (Bondswell 82), Lewis, Bennett (captain), Wildig (Waite 72), Morris, Zanzala (Palmer-Houlden 59), Evans (Jephcott 72).

Substitutes: Maxted, Drysdale.

Scorers: Evans (penalty), Zanzala (2), Palmer-Houlden.

Referee: Ruebyn Ricardo.

Attendance: 2,006.