NEW Brockenhurst goalkeeper Sam Cousins has instantly endeared himself to the Grigg Lane faithful.
He turned in a man-of-the-match performance as the Badgers tamed Sydenhams Premier title fancies Newport IoW 1-0 in the New Forest.
Murray Holmes settled the issue on 62 minutes when Dan Smith was fouled on the right wing and set-piece specialist Holmes cracked in a 25-yard free-kick off the underside of the crossbar.
But it was Cousins who supplied the foundation for victory with a string of fine saves that blunted a Newport side spearheaded by new signing Scott Jones from Havant & Waterlooville.
Three minutes before Holmes had opened the scoring, the Islanders had looked odds on to do so when Charlie Smeeton raced onto Iain Seabrook’s through ball and scampered clear of the Brock defence.
But Cousins, a summer signing from Team Solent, emerged the winner in a one-on-one.
The young keeper had had a busy time of it in a Newport dominated first half, the pick of his saves coming when Seabrook spotted him off his line and tried an ambitious lob from the halfway line which Cousins managed to tip over.
“Sam was our man-of-the-match,” acknowledged Brock boss Pat McManus.
“They peppered our box, but he was really confident and his handling was superb.
“We were under the cosh in the first half, but we coped with what Newport had to offer. They’re a big, physical side and you’ve got to cope with their route one approach – plus they’re very good at set-pieces and they get a lot of them.
“Newport are one of the favourites for the league and rightly so, but if we approach every game with Saturday’s mentality we’ll be fine. If we’ve got our best 11 and some options on the bench, I fancy us against anyone.”
Saturday’s result was doubly pleasing for Brock because they were below strength.
“On Thursday we only had 14 available and by Friday it was down to 11, so I had to re-sign Andy Wood to give us 12,” McManus explained.
“Tom Pigford and Martyn Randall are serving three-match suspensions, Cassius Newton was out, Sam Gristwood was ill and Mark Barker’s had his tonsils out.
“Will Tickle was on holiday, but he’s back for the game at Hamworthy (tonight).”
Newport boss Steve Brougham will be looking for a major improvement tonight at home to Wayne Mew’s new charges Totton & Eling, who were without a game on Saturday.
Commenting on the Grigg Lane defeat, he said: “I haven’t got much to say other than I’m very disappointed with the result.
“We have a home match against Totton & Eling on Tuesday where I’ll be looking for a response from the players that I decide will play.”
Hamworthy boss Graham Kemp refused to blame bad luck for United’s 1-0 defeat at Horndean.
Gary Austin’s solitary strike secured all three points for the Deans despite Hammers substitute Martin Warren twice hitting the woodwork and Dan Blackburn having a shot spectacularly saved.
“We gave away a poor goal and Horndean could have scored another in that ten-minute spell where we were sloppy in possession,” summed up Kemp.
“The lads reacted well, but we have to address the way we put ourselves in that situation in the first place.”