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A SOLITAIRE strike once again proved sufficient for the Newport County AFC as Tristan Abrahams’ penalty canceled a Ligue 2 meeting at Stevenage
The striker put the Exiles in the lead from the penalty spot after the superb work of right-back Liam Shephard had fouled
The exiles led from the eighth minute but had to dig deep at Lamex Stadium to grab the booty, focusing when under the pump in a tense final to stay second in the table, on par with leaders Cambridge United
Stevenage, who was only saved from relegation to the National League because of Macclesfield’s financial situation, posed more problems than Tranmere, who dropped out of League 1
But County, with central defense Mickey Demetriou, Matty Dolan and Superb Brandon Cooper, held on for three valuable points on the road as they continued their impressive start to the campaign.
Michael Flynn stayed with the same XI who did a professional job in the 1-0 win over a physical team from Tranmere at Rodney Parade
The only change the manager made was to add to his attacking options off the bench with new recruit Jamie Proctor replacing compatriot Bradley Webb
The sight of sprinklers running before kick-off would have pleased the county after a Rodney Parade malfunction left them with dry ground against the Rovers this weekend, hampering their desire for quick football on the bridge
Still, it was an over ball that caused problems in the second minute with the Exiles grateful that Danny Newton’s neat lob over Nick Townsend bounced off the crossbar.
Stevenage was closer in 90 seconds than Tranmere had made it in 90 minutes, a wake-up call for Flynn’s men
And after a breakout at the other end, County got its nose ahead when Liam Shephard dribbled from the right into the box and was cut off by rival winger Ben Coker
It was a straightforward decision for referee Lee Swabey and top scorer Abrahams got it right, scoring at home his seventh of the campaign to be well on track to his 20 goal.
The attacker will feel he should have gone to eight after being put on goal after 15 minutes; he hit the target with his right foot but didn’t really stretch goalie Jamie Cumming
The Exiles’ quick leaders were having issues with their ability to run behind Boro’s defense, but the visitors didn’t have things their way, with Romain Vincelot and Elliot Osborne both having goal sights not to disturb Townsend
Stevenage was keen to deny the county time spent on the ball, resulting in yellow cards for Osborne and Scott Cuthbert for fouls on Scott Twine and Saikou Janneh
The second was a particularly rude effort after a layoff, but it didn’t stop the Scottish captain from complaining to the linesman about the exiles’ moans and warnings.
The Exiles finished the half in the lead and, although they could no longer work on clear openings, were of good value for their 1-0 lead at the break.
Townsend had to be strong to maintain that advantage shortly after the restart after Boro counterattacked well to work an opening for dangerman Jack Aitchison, who shot powerfully and low only to make the Exiles Guardian react well to his left. with the rebound escaping Aramide Oteh
The home side were on top, giving Flynn something to think about on the sideline with Proctor and Padraig Amond options if he wanted the ball to stay high
As the hour approached, there remained a red and white dominance in terms of territory and possession, but County, with Dolan calling the shots from the heart of the defense, kept them from troubling Townsend again.
Oteh’s well-timed run saw Wales Under-21 defender Cooper block superbly, but there were still warning signs for the Exiles
Flynn called on Amond for Abrahams and Scot Bennett for Twine in an effort to add more energy, the latter providing more cover for the defense and freeing Josh Sheehan as time went on in the 70s
Cooper had an opening on the other end of a corner from Dolan but couldn’t point his header towards goal and the game, as has often been the case for the Exiles this season, hung in the balance.
It was getting tense with Janneh angering Dolan after being unable to keep the ball high under the pressure
The hosts made another big push to push the county towards their goal; Robbie Willmott’s introduction to Janneh showed Flynn was happy to hold on to what they had
Townsend barked in his defense after a failure when Newton grazed a shot from the penalty spot and the hosts kept the pressure on by entering five minutes of extra time
County nearly sealed it off thanks to a miraculous strike from Sheehan midway after a clear kick occurred, the shot drifting right past the unguarded goal, but that didn’t matter
County: Townsend, Cooper, Dolan, Demetriou, Shephard, Haynes, Labadie, Sheehan, Twine (Bennett 67), Janneh (Willmott 83), Abrahams (Amond 63)
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Stevenage FC, Newport County AFC, Tristan Abrahams, EFL League Two, Danny Newton
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