FOR the third season running, Newport County AFC have battled their way up to second in the League Two table by the beginning of September. Could this be their year?

County fell away to finish 11th in 2017-2018.

Last season they improved to finish seventh and reach the play-off final.

And another super start will have many Exiles fans believing that it could just be third time lucky for their side.

As the last two campaigns have proved, it’s too early to rush to judgement at this stage.

But things are certainly looking very good for Michael Flynn’s men.

Saturday’s 2-0 win at Forest Green Rovers was an impressive result against a team that held Premier League Bournemouth to a 0-0 draw in the Carabao Cup in midweek.

Rovers, play-off semi-finalists last season, started the day in third place and they hadn’t lost at home since March.

Mark Cooper’s team are full of talent and seemingly getting better every year, but they were second best from the off against County – even before they had goalkeeper Joe Wollacott was sent off after only 28 minutes.

The Exiles tore into their hosts from the off, pressing high up the pitch and never letting Rovers have a moment’s rest.

That paid dividends in the fourth minute when the excellent Tristan Abrahams robbed Wollacott and allowed Padraig Amond to fire into the unguarded net.

And when Abrahams was hauled down by Wollacott and shown a straight red card, it seemed like there was only going to be one winner.

It wasn’t quite that simple as the home side made life difficult and County missed several chances to kill the game off.

Forest Green hit the post with a well-struck free-kick, but the Exiles defence held firm before Ryan Haynes finally sealed all three points in stoppage-time with a thumping effort from distance.

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County have now recorded five successive clean sheets in the league and it is more than 500 minutes since they last conceded in League Two – against Mansfield Town on the opening day.

And that is despite injuries to Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien, who came off at half-time as a precaution on Saturday.

Flynn initially dropped Kyle Howkins but he came off the bench for the second half and performed well alongside new loan signing Ryan Inniss (above), who looked at home straightaway.

“It was a tough decision,” said the manager. “I spoke to Kyle and gave him my reasons. He took it superbly, like I expected him too, but I’m going to be on him because I believe in Kyle.

“I just think he has the odd lapse in concentration and I just need him to get that out of his game.

“We need him to realise that he’s in the men’s game now and as soon as he does that, he’s going to have a bright future because he’s quite quick and he’s good on the ball and aggressive in the air.

“Those are things that everybody looks for in a centre-back.

“We’ve got a good unit,” added Flynn. “Ryan slotted in well and I thought he was superb. His headers were dominant, so it’s pleasing.

“And I’m buzzing for Haynesy to get his first goal as well.

“He’s a cracking lad and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. I think he should be playing higher.”

Josh Sheehan and the returning Joss Labadie dominated in midfield and Abrahams continues to impress up front, even if the young striker was disappointed with his display.

“Tristan’s brilliant,” said Flynn. “He came over at the end and said, ‘gaffer, sorry – I’ve not been very good today’ but he never stopped working.

“You can’t play well in every game. You just keep going and keep believing, and his work ethic more than makes up for a miscontrol or a shot where he should have hit the target.”

If there’s still room for improvement for Abrahams and for the team too, according to Flynn, this should be another memorable season.

County: King; McNamara, Inniss, O’Brien (Howkins, 46), Haynes; Willmott, Sheehan, Labadie (Whitely, 85), Dolan (Maloney, 77); Abrahams, Amond

Subs not used: Townsend; Ekpiteta, Leadbitter, Collins

Booked: Labadie, McNamara, Abrahams

Referee: James Adcock

Attendance: 2,897 (898 County)