The Imps remain top of Skybet League Two for Christmas after a rip roaring game at Sincil Bank this afternoon in a display full of heart and determination which was needed to keep out a resilient Newport County.
City raced into a two goal lead courtesy of John Akinde aand Harry Anderson, before Padraig Amond pulled one back before half time for the Exiles. The Imps restored their two goal advantage through Tom Pett before Amond again hit back and despite the away side throwing everything at City, the home side held out for a vital three points.
The game started at breakneck speed in the opening ten minutes for The Imps, Harry Toffolo bursting down the left for The Imps to cross and winning the first game of the corner and that set piece brought the opening goal of the game. It was half cleared to Tom Pett who drifted the ball back into the danger area towards John AKINDE, the big man had two bites of the cherry after the Newport defence tried in vain to clear, the striker managed to sweep the ball towards goal and it looped via deflection over Joe Day and into the goal with just three minutes on the clock.
That joy was doubled just four minutes later, Harry ANDERSON took control of the ball just outside the box on the right, looked up before smashing the ball low and hard into the far corner beyond the ‘keeper.
Even though the visitors were two goals behind there was no signs that they were to fall on their sword, Antoine Semenya showed a fine turn of pace and skill to get in behind the City defence to fizz a low curling effort on target from a tight angle which Smith did well to palm away from danger. Dolan was slowly growing in confidence for the visitors as he found Semenyo down the left, but he found Michael Bostwick in the way to block for a corner. Mark O’Brien was then denied as he tried to lash a bouncing ball home at the back post, but this time it was Neal Eardley throwing himself in the way of the goalbound effort.
City rallied once again and yet again it was Anderson who was the curator of the next chance, racing away down the right to win another corner, Bostwick meeting the looping O’Connor corner to head on target but Day was right behind the flight of the ball to save.
The atmosphere around Sincil Bank was electric and it was clearly spurring the team forward, Shay McCartan showed three Newport defenders a clean pair of heels just outside the box to get a shot away, which was blocked for a corner before Anderson nipped in to meet the low, driven centre and flick another effort on target for the home side.
While The Imps had the lead, Newport possessed the pace and power to sting City on the break, a fast move down the left from Matt created space for a cross, he looked up and crossed to the edge of the box where Robbie Willmott was waiting, the number seven took a touch then fired a shot on target but Smith was proving the immovable object as he made a fine diving save to tip the ball over the top.
As light faded overhead, with the floodlights illuminating the Sincil Bank turf the home side had a chance to make it three, Toffolo running onto a fine weighted ball from Tom Pett, but his run was halted by David Pipe in the right channel, O’Connor tried the cheeky curler into the near post but it flew over the top. That miss was almost rued a little moments later as the visitors made inroads down the City left, a hanging cross into the box was just poked away from danger by Bostwick at the back post with Matt and Semenya both in close attendance.
Dolan was then frustrated by Smith as the Exile’s number eight hit a wicked, swerving freekick from fully 25 yards which the City ‘keeper did well to watch all the way through but the visitors were to reduce the arrears right on the stroke of half time. A corner from the left wasn’t cleared and the ball fell to Padraig Amond, the striker lashing home from close range into the roof of the net.
The Imps 2 Newport County 1
City started the second half apace with Newport having to thank the alertness of Day as Akinde was inches away from sliding in Pett, but the Exile’s ‘keeper raced off his line to intercept the through ball. But yet again, rather than be perturbed by the City pressure, Newport went in search of an equalising goal but Jason Shackell had other ideas, lashing the ball clear with Jamille Matt trying to force a mistake from the experienced centre back deep inside the Imps’ box. Amond flashed a header across the face of goal from a Willmott centre before McCartan was denied by Day, the Newport ‘keeper having to dive low to his left to keep out a dipping effort from the Imps’ number 17.
Akinde showed all of his strength to hold off the attentions of O’Brien on the edge of the Newport box before firing just over the top.
The Exiles broke forward and were twice to go close to netting the equaliser, Smith being called into action to save a header, the City ‘keeper tipping over the top from Amond before Semenyo found space in the box from the resulting corner to head inches wide, a real warning shot for The Imps that the game was far from over. Newport pressed forward with more intensity, throwing caution to the wind and as a result more balls into the box which City had to show all their grit and determination to keep themselves in the lead.
However, the task of maintaining the lead was made seemingly a little easier when The Imps stretched their advantage, Akinde became goal creator yet again, his tenth assist of the season to match his earlier tenth goal of the season, setting PETT on his way to finish in confident fashion with deadly accuracy into the bottom corner past a helpless Day. But as had been shown throughout, the visiting side weren’t to give up and they did get themselves on the scoresheet for a second time and it was Amond again hitting the net. The striker took advantage of a mixup in the City defence before curling home from outside the box past Smith and set up a tense finish to the game.
Danny Cowley urged the City fans to up the volume as the clock crept towards full time and they responded, the home side drove forward and Lee Frecklington almost finding Bruno Andrade with a lovely lofted through ball and it took a timely interception from Pipe to deny the Imps’ substitute a run on goal.
Newport threw men forward to grab a last gasp leveller and it took all of The Imps’ resolve, grit and determination to retain the lead, defending like lions to quell the Exile threat and take the points.
The Imps 3 Newport County 2
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
17 Shay McCARTAN
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
6 Scott WHARTON (81’ for O’Connor)
9 Matt RHEAD (74’ for Akinde)
11 Bruno ANDRADE (61’ for McCartan)
15 James WILSON
18 Bernard MENSAH
GOAL: Akinde 3’, Anderson 7’ Pett 67’
1 Joe DAY
2 David PIPE
3 Dan BUTLER
5 Fraser FRANKS
7 Robbie WILLMOTT
8 Matt DOLAN
9 Padraig AMOND
11 Jamille MATT
17 Scot BENNETT
25 Mark O’BRIEN
42 Antoine SEMENYO
30 Nick TOWNSEND
4 Joss LABADIE (56’ for Dolan)
14 Mark HARRIS (71’ for Willmott)
15 Tyreeq BAKINSON
16 Josh SHEEHAN (89’ for Pipe)
20 Cameron PRING
28 Mickey DEMETRIOU
GOAL: Amond 45’, 77’
Booking: Bennett 55’ Labadie 73’
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Assistants: Paul Newhouse & Wade Smith
4th Official: Duncan Street
Attendance: 8,632 (185 Newport supporters)