LIKE the girl with the curl, Newport County can’t seem to find any middle ground at the moment.

Last weekend against Morecambe they weren’t bad, they were horrid.

Cue a week of soul searching from Jimmy Dack’s charges and a whole lot of recriminations from supporters and more doom and gloom forecasts than on a US weather channel and we get this, one of the best Newport County displays of the modern era.

An exaggeration? Hardly. Burton have been outright leaders in League Two for much of this campaign and County restricted them to one notable effort on goal in 90 minutes. It was only their third home loss of the season.

The 4-4-2 system which looked bereft of invention and guile seven days ago was transformed, with Newport livelier, hungrier and more clinical than Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s high-flying Brewers.

Make no mistake, when Newport are good, they are very, very good.

This was a benchmark display under Dack, or indeed any manager, one of County’s most authoritative performances since their return to the Football League.

Or as one Brewers fan put it to me at half time, “Newport are bullying us... they just always want the ball.”

Nail on the head. And by illustration, there were only three fouls in the entire first period. This was controlled and disciplined football without ever becoming ugly or negative.

The Exiles have seemingly found a winning formula for tough away trips, as evidenced by the recent success at Wycombe and there is much to be said for the cohesive shape deployed by the Exiles.

This is 4-4-2 but not as we know it, with Mark Byrne and Yan Klukowski only nominally playing as wide men, both inclined to push in and strengthen County’s grip in the middle of the park.

That’s a curse if it means you lack width, but a blessing when your fullbacks are Ryan Jackson and David Tutonda, willing and capable of getting up and down, up and down, for 90 minutes solid. County’s right and left back were both exceptional.

However, Dack didn’t just get his tactics spot-on, but his selections as well, the re-introduction of Adam Chapman timely and beneficial to the side as he picked passes while Max Porter scrapped and harried his opponents, Hasselbaink’s failure to alter his rigid 4-4-2 helping County’s cause in a second period where they were far from under the cosh defending a lead, they were comfortable.

Darren Jones and Ismail Yakubu were imposing all afternoon and there was a clear belief in the Exiles’ players that they could get a result.

And no-one summed up that belief better than Miles Storey, whose first goal for the County might be as good as he ever scores in his career.

Storey didn’t know if he’d still be at the club on Wednesday and though his loan agreement was sanctioned by parent club Swindon on Friday, County secretary Lewis Richards was working through the night to get into match day with the requisite and seemingly frustrating international clearance hurdle successfully jumped.

Luckily for Newport he beat the deadline and Storey’s quality finish proved the difference on a day he got to show Newport fans his full repertoire, running the channels, finding pockets of space and most pleasingly, breathing life into County’s top scorer last term, Chris Zebroski.

Mark Cooper explained in midweek that Storey needed to play in a “classic big man, little man,” combination to get the best out of him and the ex-Pompey loanee spoke glowingly of Zebroski post-match.

Newport fans will be encouraged by Storey’s contribution with Aaron O’Connor again absent – on the field at least, he was present behind the goal with the Exiles fans, a commendable move – and hopeful the duo can continue to fire ahead of two more games this week.

County were worthy winners at the Pirelli Stadium after a first period where the Brewers were initially the better side, unlucky not to score when Adam McGurk curled around Joe Day but saw his effort rebound back off the post. His freekick in the second period, which didn’t trouble Day, was the closest the hosts would come to troubling the scoresheet.

Newport had already squandered two good opportunities before their terrific winner on the hour, Byrne volleying straight at Ian McLaughlin from close range and Zebroski mistiming his jump with a headed chance after a flowing Exiles move. Byrne also missed with a header that should have resulted in a second goal.

Newport’s winner was superb, the television highlights unlikely to do justice to a move that came after sustained pressure and possession, with several players involved before Klukowski’s beautifully cushioned pass created a classic for Storey, smashing the ball back across the goalkeeper and powering into the net with one swift movement, a textbook right foot volley.

It was worthy of winning any game, and Newport were certainly worthy of winning this one.

Burton: (4-4-2): McLaughlin, Edwards (Calero 65), McCrory, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho, Atkins, El Khayati (Maynard 53), Weir, Lenihan, McGurk, Beavon (Antione-Curier 57)

Subs not used: Shearer, Taft, Calero, Naylor, Slade

Booked: None

Newport: (4-4-2): Day, Jackson, Tutonda, Yakubu, Jones, Byrne, Klukowski, Chapman (Minshull 83), Porter, Zebroski (Sandell 77), Storey (Howe 86)

Booked: Jones

Subs not used: Stephens, Poole, Sandell, Parker, Jeffers, Howe, Minshull

Referee: Andy Madley

Attendance: 2974