Newport County 4-1 Accrington Stanley
You wait 25 years for a Football League goal.
Steve Tupling wouldn’t have known it when he scored during a 3-1 defeat to Wolves in April 1988, but that was the last time a Football League goal was scored at home by a Newport player.
It’s safe to say it wouldn’t have been celebrated like Harry Worley’s at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Or any of the three that followed on a historic day at Rodney Parade which played host to a performance that fitted the occasion.
After all, not since February 5 1988 – or 9312 days – has Newport seen a Football League win on their own patch.
But these are different days. There is no longer a need for supporters to look over their shoulders as they did in those darker times when relegation and liquidation were ever-present spectres.
Now Newport need only look forward – and with much optimism to boot.
All summer they had been waiting for this moment, which had been dreamt about for 25 years.
As he strode smiling to the ground before kick-off, club president David Hando claimed he always knew this day would come, whether he was around to see it or not.
But how many of the County faithful shared his confidence and vision?
The day did come though, and when it did County conquered.
You always had the feeling the home side would prevail, regardless of the fact Justin Edinburgh has assembled a side that should be more than capable of holding their own at this new League Two level.
Just as the former Tottenham defender said following the victory, some things are meant to be.
Accrington Stanley were never going to spoil this party and silence the capacity crowd at Rodney Parade, the Football League’s newest ground, on the weekend the organisation celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Certainly not after Worley smashed home 23 minutes into the affair and made sure the momentum from promotion and all before it followed through as Chris Zebroski, twice, and Christian Jolley added to the scores, leaving Danny Webber’s strike for Stanley irrelevant.
There were others who impressed – such as dominant distributing midfielder Adam Chapman – but it is Worley who will be the answer to trivia questions in years to come after etching his name into the history books.
There was a tangible buzz everywhere around Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Excited home fans walked to the ground in the sunshine along the rejuvenated riverside development on the banks of the River Usk.
That transformation was mirrored by the football club and joy and pride in the faces of County supporters who have known such struggles was almost worth the admission alone.
Goals from debutants Worley and the rapid new boy Zebroski, plus a fine performance from summer signing Chapman, all added to the solid platform laid by those who won promotion at Wembley, including Jolley who hit a stunning second-half curler.
“We’ve seen that before haven’t we?” smiled Edinburgh afterwards, describing the shuffle into space and the expert curl which has become a Jolley favourite.
But the manager knew it meant more on this day, even if the result bizarrely didn’t.
After all, as heart-warming as it was to see Newport sit at the top of League Two after the comprehensive win, this day was one to remember regardless of result.
Nevertheless, Edinburgh wanted his side to embrace the history and the chance of the present and the future in tribute to it.
“It was a fantastic result and a very good performance, rounding off an emotional and highly-charged day,” said Edinburgh.
“It wasn’t make or break for our season but I felt if we got the right result the momentum would continue.
“These fans have been fantastic, many of them for the last 25 years, and we’ve sent them home happy.
“But we knew we would have to deal with the hype of the day, but I wanted the players to embrace the occasion and not be shielded from it.
“With the players we’ve got now, I felt they could deal with the pressure. It was a huge, huge day and while you can’t guarantee results, you can guarantee performances and there aren’t many times this group lets me down.”
They let no-one down, using the adrenalin from the off as well as the pace of front two Zebroski and Jolley, who form what must surely be one of the quickest front pairings around.
County were not always comfortable at the back, but they had a midfielder in Chapman who was the most composed man at a sold-out Parade and who was quick to use his fast front men.
And when Worley settled any impatient nerves when he struck from a set-piece loose ball, the scene was set with Newport turning defence into attack with Chapman playing the killer pass to Jolley, whose driven cross was hit home from close range just before the break.
No danger of a Stanley comeback now, even if they continued to try and play in a manner that manager James Beattie took positives from after the game.
And not when Jolley took the pass from overlapping full-back and captain David Pipe on 55 minutes and picked his spot from outside of the area.
Zebroski volleyed home from the left of the area 11 minutes later after Pipe’s cross and Andy Sandell’s problem-making at the far post, a goal that he was teased for it’s Zidane-like qualities later on.
Former Premier League striker Webber did make the most of a scramble two minutes on and although it would not spoil the day, it did remind that far tougher challenges remain when the hype and the history settles into the slog of a fourth-tier campaign.
“But I think this group will deliver whenever,” insisted Edinburgh. There was more pressure on today than for 18 months, it was our biggest game as a group and now we can really concentrate on football, rather than history and nostalgia and the occasion.
“These players set standards and maintain them, they demand it of one another and that’s just how they are.
“I think we’ve got to say you don’t judge where you really are until about 15 games in. Then you know what you can hope to achieve.”
After 25 years, Newport couldn’t have hoped for much more than what was delivered against Accrington. If they can continue to use the momentum and their match-winners, the hope can last for a while yet.
Video: Stanley manager James Beattie on his team’s defeat