Exeter City ran out 1-0 winners over Newport County AFC after Lee Holmes’ second half strike sealed all three points at St James Park.
Wonderful play from the City winger saw him dart inside to score his second goal of the season and keep the Grecians top of Sky Bet League Two.
Paul Tisdale named the same side that began City’s memorable 4-3 comeback victory in the league against Cheltenham Town last weekend, with new signings Jayden Stockley and Hiram Boateng both named on the substitutes bench following their transfer deadline day arrivals.
It was a first half where Newport often dominated possession as Mike Flynn’s side looked to test the Grecians’ defence aerially, with City looking to break on the counter-attack.
It was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the match through striker Padraig Almond. After good initial build up play from County, a dangerous ball was fired into the City box, but the forward’s effort was just wide of Christy Pym’s goal.
County had another chance to test Pym a few minutes later through Matty Dolan’s free-kick following a foul by Jordan Tillson on the edge of the City box. The Newport midfielder, though, was unable to beat the Grecians’ wall as City rode out a spell of early pressure from their opponents.
Tisdale’s men had to wait until just before the 20-minute mark before they could fashion they’re first opportunity to test Joe Day in the County goal.
After Pierce Sweeney found space on the right, he crossed dangerously towards Reuben Reid, but clever play from the striker saw him dummy the ball for Tillson, who was inches from connecting as the ball flashed across goal.
Moments later, Amond had another attempt at the City goal when he latched onto a good cross from Sean Rigg. The County number 9 turned well, but his low effort was straight at Pym, who collected comfortably.
The County striker had another glorious chance just before the half-hour mark, when good running from Frank Nouble saw him get to the by-line and cross low, but Amond’s effort was off target and over Pym’s goal.
City then had an excellent chance to go ahead, but for Ben White’s clearance off the line. After Holmes’ dangerous cross was palmed away by Day, Jake Taylor’s follow up effort, which was destined for goal, was headed away well by the defender.
As the first half gathered pace, Troy Brown then did brilliantly to clear off the line and keep the scores level which meant it was goalless at the interval.
The Grecians had the first chance of the second half just one minute in from Lloyd James.
After good build-up play from Taylor and Craig Woodman, James worked space well to shoot from distance before Day collected centrally.
County then had an excellent chance to take the lead after Rigg played in Nouble between Brown and Sweeney. His cross found Robbie Willmott at the back post, but the County midfielder shot well over as both sides battled to take the lead.
City then broke the deadlock just before the hour-mark with a wonderful goal from Holmes. Tenacious work from Reid down the right, who did well to retain possession, before the ball found its way to the City winger who cut inside to curl excellently into the far corner.
Reid then almost made it 2-0 a few minutes later as City broke well through Liam McAlinden. The winger did well to drive at the County defence and tee up Reid, whose left footed shot took a deflection and edged just wide of Day’s goal.
The away side then came inches from levelling the match as Nouble’s right footed shot from distance hit the post as the Grecians managed to clear and prevent any Newport player from collecting the rebound.
Drama followed when Tillson had the chance to double City’s lead on 73 minutes. A break at pace saw the ball squared and arrive at the City midfielder in space, but he was unable to keep his effort on target.
Seconds later City had another good break as Holmes headed well towards an empty net but for Mickey Demetriou, who managed to clear off the line, amidst a scramble of bodies.
As the Grecians battled to hold onto their lead, Tisdale made a double change on 83 minutes as Stockley made his return to the club and Boateng his debut at St James Park.
The away side continued to pile pressure on the City defence in the latter stages, but the Grecians held firm with much of the credit going to the central defensive partnership of Brown and Jordan Moore-Taylor who were put under consistent aerial pressure.
Exeter City (4-4-2): Pym, Sweeney, Woodman, James, Tillson, Holmes, Moore-Taylor, McAlinden (Stockley, 83), Taylor, Reid (Boateng, 83), Brown
Subs not used: Hamon, Archibald-Henville, Simpson, Byrne, Sparkes,
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Day, Butler, Labadie, White, Willmott (Tozer, 85), Dolan (Owen-Evans, 77), Amond, Nouble, O’Brien (Cole, 77), Rigg, Demetriou
Subs not used: Bittner, Pipe, Bennett, Jahraldo
Booked: Rigg, Demetriou, Tozer
Attendance: 4,193 (Inc, 343, away)