Stunning strike from Matty Dolan puts Newport on course for Wembley
Matty Dolan’s wondergoal helped give Newport a 2-0 semi-final first-leg win over Forest Green in the League Two play-offs.
Dolan – a key man for the Exiles – hit the back of the net from 25 yards and Lewis Collins doubled the advantage to leave Mike Flynn’s side in pole position going into Sunday’s second leg.
Newport were full value for a victory which means they are on course for what would be a second play-off final at Wembley in the space of three years.
In front of 900 returning fans at Rodney Parade, Newport were backed by a raucous Amber Army determined to enjoy their first match back for more than a year even in wet weather.
Newport captain Joss Labadie was not fit to be involved. The midfielder suffered a nasty leg gash against Southend on the final weekend of the regular season, but had said he would be ready.
Josh Sheehan led County instead, for whom Collins also started while his brother Aaron was in the Forest Green side. Rovers’ one change from their last game saw Jayden Richardson start.
Newport striker Padraig Amond fired over with just 45 seconds on the clock as heavy rain soaked the surface. Lewis Collins then had a shot saved as Newport started well with a high tempo and crisp passing.
Forest Green had offered little in attack in the first 20 minutes. Aaron Collins did run in on goal, but Sheehan did brilliantly to get back and pick his pocket. Richardson also broke clear down the right.
County were the better team and in the 31st minute they went ahead through a stunning strike from Dolan.
The man who has played at centre-back for most of the season was in midfield here. He received the ball on the edge of the box from Sheehan and as soon as his effort left his left foot, it looked destined for the top corner.
Dolan then gave away a foul right on the edge of the County box after felling Dominic Bernard but Odin Bailey’s effort clipped the crossbar and went over.
Amond started the second half as he began the first by failing to hit the target from a good position while Aaron Collins headed a dangerous Forest Green cross from the left just wide.
Newport then went straight up the other end to make it 2-0 just 49 seconds later as Lewis Collins showed his brother how to finish when played in on goal by Aaron Lewis in the 56th minute.
Lewis Collins was almost immediately replaced by Ryan Taylor after his goal and went to the bench with ice on his ankle.
Newport goalkeeper Tom King then denied Bailey with a brilliant, close-range stop to keep his team in control of the tie.
Amond tried an audacious chip from distance which hit the top of the net, but there were no further goals despite seven minutes of added time.