NEWPORT County AFC got the ‘statement win’ they craved as substitute Kyle Howkins’ late header sealed a first three points of the season and ended Plymouth Argyle’s 100 per cent start to the campaign.

County ended a run of seven successive draws in 90 minutes after soaking up plenty of pressure from the early-season pacesetters in the first half.

And they were rewarded for a much more attacking approach in the second half to earn a first league win over Argyle since Boxing Day 2014 Manager Michael Flynn made two changes from the last league game – a 0-0 draw at Cambridge United last Saturday – with Mark O’Brien and Scot Bennett replacing Howkins and Matty Dolan.

County started in a 4-2-3-1 with Amond and Matt interchanging as the central striker but their plans were disrupted when Mickey Demetriou appeared to hurt his ankle trying to block a shot from Ryan Taylor.

The centre-back was wheeled off on a stretcher with his leg strapped up and Howkins was called into action after just 21 minutes.

Flynn appeared to switch to 3-5-2 with Danny McNamara playing inside Robbie Willmott after losing Demetriou injury, before seemingly reverting to 4-2-3-1 again.

Either way, County had to do a lot of defending in the first half and they did it superbly – with everyone pitching in.

Bennett stuck like glue to Danny Mayor, who Flynn has described as the best player in the division, while Willmott, Josh Sheehan, Jamille Matt and Padraig Amond all tracked back to help out.

Amond was involved all over the pitch, popping up on the line to clear Taylor’s back-heel after Demetriou was injured and heading clear in the middle before out-muscling Riley while filling in at left-back.

Goalkeeper Tom King, who kept his place despite an inspired performance from Nick Townsend in the Carabao Cup win at Gillingham, had earlier acrobatically tipped over a fierce drive from the impressive Riley.

At the other end, O’Brien had headed over from Ryan Haynes’ cross.

Joss Labadie volleyed straight at Pilgrims stopper Alex Palmer and Haynes curled a free-kick over the top, while Matt looked to get a push in the back as he attempted to get a head on another Haynes set-piece.

But most of the attacking pressure was coming from the table-toppers and McNamara did well to block a shot from Dom Telford before Sheehan recovered brilliantly to rob Joe Edwards as he sized up King’s goal from the edge of the area.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn opted to make a positive change at half-time with Tristan Abrahams, who scored his first County goal at Gillingham in midweek, replacing Bennett.

And Abrahams, who also converted the winning penalty at Priestfield, had an instant impact as he was set free down the right and cut the ball back for Matt but his fellow striker’s shot was scuffed wide.

Plymouth were on the back foot for the first time as County attacked with confidence, roared on by the home fans.

Sheehan got a free-kick on target but it was easily gathered by Palmer.

Haynes then hit the side netting after Matt had been released by Abrahams and fizzed a ball across goal.

And Amond poked a shot over Palmer but just wide of the far post.

Both sides tired as the game entered the final quarter and County began to defend quite deep, often with 10 men behind the ball.

King did well to palm away a long-distance effort from Plymouth substitute Jose Baxter, who then saw a free-kick blocked by the County wall.

But Flynn’s men roused themselves once again and went for all three points.

Matt had a shot blocked by Riley on 78 minutes when Sheehan’s cross fell to him in the box.

Abrahams just missed a whipped cross from Labadie and Amond saw a header palmed away by Palmer before Howkins powerfully headed home the winner from Haynes’ cross nine minute from time.

County: King; McNamara, O’Brien, Demetriou (Howkins, 21), Haynes; Bennett (Abrahams, 46), Sheehan; Willmott, Labadie, Amond; Matt

Subs not used: Townsend, Leadbitter, Nurse, Maloney, Whitely

Booked: Labadie, Matt

Referee: Peter Wright

Attendance: 5,041 (1,039)

Argus star man: McNamara