TWO inspired substitutions from manager Michael Flynn ensured that Newport County AFC edged a tight contest against Port Vale at Rodney Parade.

The match appeared to be drifting towards a 0-0 draw before Jamille Matt and Corey Whitely entered the fray late on.

And the pair combined for the winner on 77 minutes as Matt tapped in Whitely’s cross to seal a 1-0 win.

It was Matt’s first goal of the season on his return from injury and it kept the Exiles in second place in League Two.

The win also extended the club-record unbeaten run to 17 regular-season league games without defeat, with a sixth successive clean sheet in the league thrown in for good measure.

Flynn made just one enforced change from last Saturday’s win at Forest Green Rovers with right-back Dan Leadbitter replacing Danny McNamara, who is away on international duty with Ireland under-21s.

That meant that centre-back Mark O’Brien and striker Tristan Abrahams were passed fit to start and Ryan Inniss was selected alongside O’Brien, despite having an FA charge for an alleged bite hanging over his head.

The 6ft 4ins defender had a few ponderous moments at the back, but he appeared to be determined to get on the scoresheet as he charged forward for every corner and free-kick.

Neither side looked like scoring a keenly contested first 45 minutes, which contained plenty of tasty challenges but only one booking when James Gibbons went through the back of Robbie Willmott.

Abrahams and Padraig Amond both had half chances early on before Leadbitter was barged off the ball in the box and referee Christopher Pollard waved away the penalty appeals.

Matty Dolan fired a free-kick straight at Vale goalkeeper Scott Brown before defender Adam Crooked came to the rescue to clear the danger after Inniss had flicked on a long throw from Ryan Haynes.

Dolan tried his luck from distance again and his piledriver fizzed past Brown’s left-hand post before Haynes smashed an effort high over the bar and Amond put a header just wide.

At the other end, the visitors threatened sporadically with Richie Bennett and David Amoo shooting wide and Tom King getting down well to hold a dangerous cross-shot from Cristian Montano.

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Vale could have taken the lead 10 minutes after the break when David Worrall wriggled away from Inniss but King was out quickly to smother the danger.

The increasingly influential Josh Sheehan then went close with a free-kick that cleared Brown’s bar by a matter of inches after a bustling run from Abrahams was illegally halted on the edge of the area.

But Flynn opted to make a change just after the hour mark with Matt on in place of captain Joss Labadie to play alongside Abrahams, with Amond dropping deeper.

Matt was eager to make an impact and he was involved straightaway as he released Abrahams down the right.

The former Norwich City youngster fired across goal and wide before Matt almost bundled the ball home following a scramble in the box.

There was still the occasional scare as Montano volleyed wide from the edge of the area, but the Exiles were pushing hard for the winner.

It nearly arrived in the 72nd minute when Haynes smashed a shot against the post from all of 30 yards out.

And it finally came five minutes later when Whitely, just on in place of Leadbitter, made a great run down the right and put the ball on a plate for Matt to tap in from close range.

It should have been more comfortable as Matt won a penalty with eight minutes to go, only for Brown to deny Amond from the spot.

The impressive Whitely also forced Brown into a smart save five minutes from the end.

And there were hearts in mouths as Vale skipper Leon Legge headed against the bar at the death.

But, with this defence, one goal is usually enough and so it proved again as Flynn’s men sealed three more precious points.

County: King; Leadbitter (Whitely, 75), O’Brien, Inniss, Haynes; Willmott, Sheehan, Labadie (Matt, 62), Dolan; Abrahams (Howkins, 90), Amond

Subs not used: Townsend, Ekpiteta, Maloney, Poleon

Booked: Sheehan

Referee: Christopher Pollard

Attendance: 3,913 (255 Port Vale)

Argus star man: Matt