nother goal from Jamille Matt was enough to decide a somewhat scrappy game at Rodney Parade as Newport County got their first win in seven league games. The 1-0 win sees them remain 13th in the table but brings to a halt a slide which has seen them fall almost completely out of the automatic promotion picture.
Exeter began the day in 8th position - out of the playoff places on goal difference only - having won three of their last five games. Their relatuve slide from their previous high league position has been someone similar to County's, although not as severe and appear to have turned the corner where County were still waiting.
Regan Poole was put straight into Mike Flynn’s starting eleven after the former County academy graduate returned to the club on Friday, on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season. Further changes saw Matt Dolan drop to the bench and Fraser Franks out of the squad completely.
In the early stages, both sides were playing like teams that had experienced a downturn in fortunes; neither playing with a lot of tempo or productivity. The best of the early action saw Dan Butler break through midfield, feed Jamille Matt who found Willmott out wide; the wide man’s cross found Matt again in the centre but the striker’s header was straight at Christy Pym in the Exeter goal.
Joe Day was called into action for the first time just before the half hour mark when a looping header from Dara O’Shea looked destined for the far corner but Day came out of nowhere to produce a stunning save to tip the ball round the post. It really was a save worthy of a Premier League game.
It looked as if this would be the last meaningful action of the half but just before Charles Breakspear blew his whistle, Dan Butler fired the ball into Padraig Amond who chested the ball down brilliantly for Antoine Semenyo; the Bristol City loanee’s first-time shot was vicious but agonisingly cleared the angle between post and crossbar by inches. Indicative of the half as a whole, not quite good enough.
Both sides came out for the second half with far better intentions on show. In the first five minutes, the fans saw action at both ends Robbie Willmott blazed over he bar after being found by a Dan Butler cross and Ryan Bowman clattered the crossbar for the visitors with a brilliant dipping volley on the turn.
Just shy of the hour mark, a long throw-in from Mickey Demetriou eventually found it’s way to Tyreeq Bakinson at the back post. The man whose loan deal was extended last week produced a vicious half-volley which in turn, produced an equally good save from Pym. Moments later Jamille Matt almost benefited from his own hard work as he towered above the defence to header a Dan Butler corner just wide.
County were building slowly but they finally got the reward 20 minutes from time. A ball in from the left saw Mickey Demetriou make a nuisance of himself in the danger area; the resulting loose ball was given the treatment from close range for Matt’s 15th goal of the season. The lead was almost doubled moments later when, after a second corner in quick succession, Padraig Amond glanced the ball just the wrong side of the upright.
The goal looked to completely deflate the visitors; County found it much easier to get on the ball and subsequently, looked a lot more assured in possession. As soon at Matt notched, it was as if someone flicked a switch on the game and while Exeter did create a few late half chances, County were able to see out the win in relative comfort. The raw at the final whistle was so intense, the floodlights went out!
A good win for County ending a run of six without a league victory. Now they can look ahead to a well-earned trip to Middlesbrough; another free hit against a side who don’t always fire at home. Dare we dream of being in the velvet bag again?
Man of the Match: Jamille Matt – Never stopped running and got the important touch to give County the win. Honourable mention to Scot Bennett who broke play up brilliantly all game long.
Player Ratings: Day 7, Butler 6, Willmott 6, Amond 6, Matt 7, Bakinson 7, Bennett 7, O’Brien 7, Poole 7, Demetriou 7, Semenyo 6
Attendance: 3,791 (727 away)