County start vital month with rousing win against promotion hopefuls at Parade
CAMERON Norman was shoved in the head and then used it to set Newport County AFC on their way to a 2-1 win over 10-man Swindon Town.
The right-back scored the opener in the 54th minute at Rodney Parade before Middlesbrough loanee Calum Kavanagh seemingly secured the spoils with a goal on debut with 13 minutes to go.
Tomi Adeloye came off the bench in the 90th minute and promptly slotted to make it a needlessly nervy finish but thankfully there was no late drama.
It was a vital win against promotion hopefuls to set the tone for a key month in the Exiles’ bid to stretch away from the relegation zone.
County were helped on their way thanks to having a man advantage for 75 minutes after a moment of madness by Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who pushed Cameron Norman in the face in front of the dugouts.
The fall was theatrical but referee Neil Hair was left with no choice but to show a red card.
That gave County a golden chance for a notable win against a side in the promotion mix and they took it to end a six-game winless streak stretching back to Crewe on December 2.
It was also a first success in Newport since the 2-0 against Gillingham on November 19, a home run featuring two draws and the cup loss to Derby and defeat to Doncaster.
Graham Coughlan made six changes to the side that lost at Carlisle with debuts for midfielder Harry Charsley and striker Charlie McNeill.
There was a surprise switch in goal with Nick Townsend given a first league appearance since October’s defeat in Swindon while fit-again James Clarke made his first outing since November, replacing Declan Drysdale after the central defender suffered a long-term injury.
Fit-again Scot Bennett and Aaron Lewis joined Charsley as the midfield trio while defender Matt Baker and forward Kavanagh were on the bench after their January arrivals on loan.
Swindon were led by prolific and experienced striker Charlie Austin and featured former County loanee Jake Cain in midfield after his permanent move from Liverpool.
The Exiles snapped into the visitors from the off, recognising the need to stop the possession-based side from getting into their stride, and that paid off in the opening exchanges.
Clarke was fouled, Norman rushed over and was then pushed in the face by Hepburn-Murphy, a soft act that was followed by the defender going down and staying down to make his point.
Mr Hair took his time making the decision but it was a simple one to show red rather than yellow.
County built some pressure and had their first effort after 23 minutes when Norman fired a drive straight at Sol Brynn from the edge of the area, followed by Charsley heading over after a cross from the right.
The Exiles, who were let down by poor set-piece delivery, kept pushing for the opener with Charsley shooting over and having another effort blocked after taking too long in the box.
Bennett and Adam Lewis were next to try their luck – blocked and a routine save – but it remained goalless approaching half-time.
A poor and needlessly extravagant McNeill cross-field pass, a moment that the Manchester United youngster will learn from, led to a booking for Priestley Farquharson after 37 minutes for a bodycheck on Wales midfielder Jonny Williams.
The Swindon bench were fuming that a penalty wasn’t given after Austin went down in the box from a corner that had been cheaply given away after a mix-up involving Mickey Demetriou, Farquharson and Townsend.
It was then County’s turn to appeal without luck when Aaron Lewis was also downed after some grappling and it remained goalless at the break.
The Exiles stayed on the front foot at the start of the second half without really hammering away at the door but got their opener after 53 minutes.
Adam Lewis drilled in a cross from the left and Norman powered in a header at the far post, giving Brynn no chance.
County didn’t really build on the opener but nor did they suffer any danger and Coughlan turned to the bench after 69 minutes, bringing on Nathan Moriah-Welsh for Charsley and Kavanagh for McNeill.
And it was Kavanagh that applied the killer blow in the 78th minute after superb work by Moriah-Welsh and Aaron Lewis’ calmness.
Moriah Welsh split the defence with a pass to give Lewis a one-on-one and rather than take on Brynn himself he rolled the ball to his striker, who had dummied in the build-up and rolled the ball into an empty net.
Wales Under-21s international Luke Jephcott had Swindon’s first shot with five minutes to go but Townsend held on.
However, he was given no chance after County switched off for Adeloye to firmly finish in the first of six added minutes.
County substitute Omar Bogle hit the outside of the post as the final whistle neared and thankfully Swindon couldn’t manage a sucker punch.
County: Townsend, Norman, Clarke, Farquharson, Demetriou, Adam Lewis (Bogle 84), Bennett, Aaron Lewis, Charsley (Moriah-Welsh 69), McNeill (Kavanagh 69), Zanzala (Evans 78).
Substitutes not used: Day, Baker, Waite.
Yellow: Clarke, Farquharson, Norman, Townsend.
Goals: Norman, Kavanagh.
Swindon scorers: Adeloye
Referee: Neil Hair.