Newport County extended their lead at the top of League Two to four points with a comfortable 2-0 win over strugglers Grimsby Town at Blundell Park.
Plagued by off-the-field incidents and unrest, Grimsby were not in a good place heading into the game, with the Mariners conceding 24 goals in 14 games this season. Their dire form left them just two points above the relegation zone heading into the game.
There was far more stability off the pitch at Newport, with Michael Flynn very quickly settling on a back-three. Swansea loanee Brandon Cooper, the midfielder turned defender Matty Dolan, and stalwart Mickey Demetriou have given them some defensive stability to launch a serious promotion push and had them as clear favourites going into the game.
Story of the game
Despite their success with the back three, Newport went with four defenders in an attacking 4-3-3 shape against a leaky Grimsby side.
Although they came into the game as underdogs, the hosts had the first big chance of the game as Elliot Hewitt broke away in midfield and slid the ball through for Montel Gibson with the striker appearing to kick the turf as he skewed his shot wide.
Other than that one chance for Gibson, the first 20 minutes were uneventful, with both sides seemingly tentative in their offensive approach.
Newport, despite creating very little, took the lead on 25 minutes with a slice of luck as Scott Twine’s deflected off the wall, leaving the wrong-footed Sam Russell helpless to stop the ball as it bounced into the net.
With that goal, the visitors continued their run of scoring in every game this season and compounded the Mariners’ woes, who had not scored more than one goal in a game since their comeback win over Leyton Orient in mid-October.
As has been the story this season for Ian Holloway’s side, chances were hard to come by as they chased an equaliser and the frustration got to Danny Rose who went in late on Twine in the box and gave a penalty away on the cusp of half-time.
Former Grimsby striker Padraig Amond slotted away the penalty to double his sides lead and send Town well on their way to their fourth league defeat in just five games.
West Bromwich Albion loanee Owen Windsor replaced Rose at half-time, and he almost made an immediate impact as his free-kick smacked the crossbar, with the rebound falling to Gibson who could not get the ball under control to get a shot off.
Twine went close to his second just after the hour mark with a volley from just inside the box and the game had settled to a level which allowed the visitors to control the game and preserve their two-goal lead.
The hosts toiled, but they looked like a team low on confidence and cohesion as they had little success on the attacking front in the second half with no passes in the final third connecting.
Therefore, the league’s top side navigated the second period with relative ease, with Nick Townsend untroubled in the Newport goal, as he secured his third clean sheet in six games.
Newport have all the right qualities to aim for promotion
The win at Blundell Park extended The Exiles' unbeaten run to six games as they once again showed their strengths at both ends of the field.
Their solidity in defence and the clinical edge going forward have Flynn's side aiming high and sitting pretty at the top of the division.
Young Grimsby side lacking inspiration
Having already conceded 26 goals this season, 14 of which have come in just the last five games, it is hard to see where results are going to come for the Lincolnshire outfit.
At the other end of the field, it's not much better either, with their tally of 13 goals the third-lowest return in League Two this season.
Scott Twine and Nicky Demetriou
Twine was lucky with how his goal went in but his quality shone through, playing as the main creator behind the striker, in a game that really lacked individual brilliance.
Also, it is easy to see why Newport have the joint-best defensive record in the league with Demetriou at the heart of the backline which put in another professional display and earnt their clean sheet.