NEWPORT County AFC defender Ryan Haynes was perhaps tempting fate when he said after last weekend’s win at Forest Green Rovers: “We’ve started the season so well defensively and I can’t see any teams breaking us down.”

An incredible 5-4 defeat to West Ham United under-21s duly followed last Wednesday night, albeit with a much-changed side.

But it was business as usual in League Two on Saturday as Haynes and Mark O’Brien returned to the back line alongside Ryan Inniss and Dan Leadbitter, who was given a chance to shine while Danny McNamara is away on international duty.

And, with Tristan Abrahams and Padraig Amond defending from the front, Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie, Matty Dolan and Robbie Willmott grafting in midfield and Tom King rock solid in goal, yet another clean sheet was secured.

That is six in a row in League Two and, incredibly, the Exiles have now played more than 10 hours of league football since they last conceded – on the opening day of the season.

It will take some time before ‘1-0 to the County’ catches on like ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ did in the early 1990s, but league games at Rodney Parade are following a familiar script of late – keep it tight, build the pressure and score a late winner.

“It’s a mentality thing,” added Haynes last week. “All of us together know that if we keep a clean sheet, we will win the game.”

It happened against Plymouth Argyle three weeks ago when Kyle Howkins headed home the winner on 81 minutes.

A week later it was Padraig Amond scoring the only goal of the game deep into stoppage time to beat Crewe Alexandra.

And on Saturday it was substitute Jamille Matt who bagged his first goal of the season to edge a tight contest against Port Vale and earn another three points.

The visitors had the best chance of a fairly uneventful first hour when King rushed out to smother the danger in a one-on-one with David Worrall 10 minutes into the second half.

Haynes then rattled the post with a terrific effort from 30 yards.

But County manager Michael Flynn was rewarded for making two positive changes in the final half hour as Matt replaced a tiring Labadie before Leadbitter made way for Corey Whitely.

And, two minutes after Whitely’s introduction, the subs combined to sink Vale.

Whitely received a throw-in and immediately attacked, beating two men down the right flank before pulling the ball back for Matt to tap in from close range on 77 minutes.

Amond should have prevented a nervy ending when the hosts were awarded a soft penalty five minutes later but his spot-kick was well saved by Scott Brown.

And there was a big let off when Vale skipper headed against the bar in stoppage time.

But it ended in another 1-0 home win, another clean sheet and another game added to the club record that now stands at 17 regular-season league matches without defeat.

Their last loss in the league was way back on March 12 at Northampton Town, which is where Flynn’s men head next.

It’s a record that even earned respect from the opposition camp on Saturday, something that isn’t always guaranteed.

“We know they are a strong team; they are very good. Their record speaks for itself,” said Vale assistant manager Dave Kevan.

“But we have more than matched them all the way. We are proud of our lads and their effort and commitment.

“I think we have shown that we can be a match for anyone in the league.”

Rivals are finally, it seems, sitting up and taking notice of the Exiles’ achievements.

County: King; Leadbitter (Whitely, 75), O’Brien, Inniss, Haynes; Willmott, Sheehan, Labadie (Matt, 62), Dolan; Abrahams (Howkins, 90), Amond

Subs not used: Townsend, Ekpiteta, Maloney, Poleon

Booked: Sheehan

Referee: Christopher Pollard

Attendance: 3,913 (255 Port Vale)