Graham Coughlan praised his Newport players’ work ethic after they hit back with two second-half goals to win at Crewe and hand Lee Bell defeat in his first game in permanent charge of the Railwaymen.
A late winner from former Crewe striker Offrande Zanzala completed the comeback after Cameron Norman had cancelled out Lachlan Brook’s stunning opener for the hosts.
Coughlan, like Bell, is new to his role and this was his third success in seven league and cup games so far, his side making up for the disappointment of their brave FA Cup exit at the hands of Derby in South Wales last weekend.
Coughlan gambled by making changes off the bench in that tie, but he was rewarded this time as Zanzala, a 74th-minute replacement for Will Evans, came up trumps when he finished after Omar Bogle had knocked back a cross from the influential Norman, who also struck the crossbar.
“I thought we were outstanding and I am proud of that group of lads as they ran through brick walls for us tonight. You’d be hard pressed to find us playing better this season,” said Coughlan.
“We didn’t come out of the traps and in fairness Crewe scored a brilliant goal, but I think we were better in the first half.
“I was brave last week and the decisions I made probably cost us the tie. Tonight the substitution I made came off, but that’s football.
“I believe in this group of players and we tried to win this game just as we had last weekend.
“In fact, I think we could have run out with a few more goals as we crashed the crossbar twice and had a stonewall penalty.”
Bell’s permanent reign at Gresty Road got off to a flying start thanks to on-loan Brentford winger Brook’s fine finish.
He swivelled on to a Kelvin Mellor pass and the ball soared into the top corner beyond Joe Day after 13 minutes.
James Waite clobbered an angled effort against the home upright on the half-hour mark and Newport moved through the gears after the break.
County skipper Mickey Demetriou should have made the most of a free header from a corner but sent his effort straight into Arthur Okonkwo’s hands.
But the keeper was picking the ball out of his net when Zac Williams’ clearance fell to Norman, who drove a deflected shot home for the leveller.
Norman then crashed an effort against the bar before Zanzala hit the winner in the 85th minute.
Bell said: “It’s a massive honour to be appointed as manager, but I’m bitterly disappointed we’ve turned in a performance like that and I’ve let the players know afterwards.
“Newport deserved their win and we can’t be relying on scoring ‘worldies’ every week. It is important to stop the ball going into our box.
“We coped with that in the first half and we spoke to them at half-time about what to expect from Newport, but I think it was a shock to them.
“We couldn’t get a foothold and we made poor decisions up there. The front three were excellent, but we want to build a winning mentality. There were long balls hit into the box and it is my job to eradicate that from our game.”
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