GRAHAM Coughlan might not want to say it, but Newport County AFC are in the thick of a race for the League Two play-offs.

The Exiles beat top-seven contenders for the second time in a week on Saturday, backing up their thrilling 5-3 win against Morecambe with a determined 2-0 success at AFC Wimbledon.

Midfielder Bryn Morris opened the scoring with a fierce drive from distance in the ninth minute after a good set-up by striker Offrande Zanzala, who was then denied in a one-on-one as County had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.

That changed 10 minutes after the restart when defender Kyle Jameson showed the composure of a forward to score at the far post from Adam Lewis’ free-kick.

Here are some talking points from the clash at Plough Lane…

South Wales Argus: CELEBRATION: County thank the travelling Amber Army after the win at WimbledonCELEBRATION: County thank the travelling Amber Army after the win at Wimbledon (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Manager Coughlan insists the target is beating last season’s tally of 57 points but make no mistake, the Exiles are promotion contenders with eight games to play.

They moved up to 11th in the table with victory and are now just two points off the Dons in seventh.

Walsall, Gillingham, Crawley and Morecambe are the other contenders, potentially Bradford as well.

There is a gap to those at the top of the table but the Exiles, even with some influential figures on the sidelines, should have no inferiority complex when it comes to their play-off rivals.

Barrow are next up, a game that will be tough both because the hosts are sixth and because it’s a very long trip.

County will have come through a very hard run of games but forget the notion of certain fixtures being more winnable in this bonkers League Two season in which there is a scramble for automatic promotion, the play-offs and safety.

Even Tranmere and Salford, two teams that will head to Rodney Parade with a spot in League Two assured for next season, are better than their position suggests and will be dangerous.

This could go to the wire, and that’s remarkable given what we feared when County were losing to Sheffield FC and Yeovil in pre-season.

South Wales Argus: TEAM EFFORT: Will Evans defends from the front for CountyTEAM EFFORT: Will Evans defends from the front for County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


This was a textbook away performance reminiscent of the triumph in Tranmere last season, but this time County didn’t blot their copybook by conceding at the death.

The Exiles were set up superbly and got their noses in front against a Dons side who lead the division for clean sheets with 15.

County then defended with discipline and determination against hosts who fired balls into the box.

The Dons may have racked up 15 shots but nine of them were from outside the area, while the Exiles made 34 clearances and nine blocks.

County have won 10 times on the road this season – Forest Green, Cheltenham (EFL Trophy), Gillingham, Morecambe, Barnet (FA Cup), Doncaster, Eastleigh (FA Cup), Walsall, Harrogate and Wimbledon.

I’d rank the 3-0 win at play-off rivals Walsall as the best of the bunch, but this wasn’t far off.

South Wales Argus: ROCK: Kyle Jameson scored and was superb at the back for CountyROCK: Kyle Jameson scored and was superb at the back for County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


It’s worth reiterating that County are without captain Ryan Delaney and experienced James Clarke for the rest of the campaign, injury-hit Declan Drysdale missed out again at Wimbledon, youngster Josh Seberry is closing in on a return from a broken leg and influential right wing-back Shane McLoughlan faces a race to play again in the regular season.

County are down to their last defensive trio for Coughlan’s favoured 3-5-2 and they were immense.

Scot Bennett is a calming presence at the heart of the defence after moving back from midfield while Matt Baker is a real prospect who continues to learn heaps in his second spell with the club.

Jameson has been the success story of late after a tough start to his time at County because of a hip injury in August.

The left-footer had to be taken off late on at Stockport because he was not yet ready to go for the full 90 minutes but played the whole games against both Morecambe and Wimbledon.

His physicality was vital against the Dons and he was at the centre of a flashpoint in the first half when his clean covering tackle led to a (wrongly-awarded) home free-kick on the edge of the area and a booking, when it could have been red.

Jameson stayed on and used his rarely-used right foot to get the crucial second and open his account for the club.

The trio were superb in London and it’s a shame that Wales Under-21s duty means Baker will be absent for Barrow away on Saturday.

South Wales Argus: OPENER: Bryn Morris smashed in a superb strike to put County 1-0 up at WimbledonOPENER: Bryn Morris smashed in a superb strike to put County 1-0 up at Wimbledon (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Morris showed County the power of his right boot with a clean hit in Grimsby’s win at Rodney Parade last season and now the Exiles are profiting from it.

The 27-year-old has had a huge impact in Newport and remains a League Two ever-present with eight fixtures to go.

In a season that has stretched County’s squad to the limit, Morris is Mr Reliable II to go along with the original, stalwart Scot Bennett.

The midfielder keeps things ticking along but he also comes up with game-changing moments – it is now seven goals for the season and three assists.

Morris has struck five times from outside the box and his personal goal of the season competition is tremendous.

There was his blasted effort in the home draw with Walsall, the cunning curler against Stockport, the memorable (if slightly-deflected) stunner against Manchester United and then this one.

Offrande Zanzala deserves great credit for his hold-up play but Morris drive was a thing of beauty.

There should be questions being asked in Grimsby, their loss has been County’s gain.