Josh Sheehan scored for the second successive match as Newport County AFC and Luton Town played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade.
Both goals came from a first-half that certainly created a whole host more chances than the second-half, with the two teams creating several chances in what was an end-to-end affair throughout.
Sheehan was the man to strike first, that goal coming within the opening two minutes of the match, with the midfielder finishing off the chance in the area after away goalkeeper Marek Stech could only parry Aaron Collins’ effort back into the danger-area.
The corner-kicks of Alan Sheehan were causing a host of problems to the County defence all game, with Dan Potts rising highest from one in the 23rd minute to secure a point for the visitors.
Mickey Demetriou headed over the crossbar in County’s best chance of the second-half, Danny Hylton passing up Luton’s clearest opportunity late-on, with a draw probably the fair result after an enthralling battle from the first whistle at Rodney Parade.
That point sees the Exiles remain in the top-half of the League 2 table and still in 11th position, although the gap on the play-off positions has increased to seven points with nine games remaining.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that secured an impressive 2-0 victory at Yeovil Town last weekend.
Goal-scorer from that game Paul Hayes and captain Joss Labadie both missed out through unspecified injuries, with Mark O’Brien recovering from his own hamstring troubles to come back into the side.
Aaron Collins was the other player to return into the starting side, making his first start for the club in 789 days in the process, as the Exiles stuck to their familiar 3-5-2 formation at Rodney Parade by pushing Bern Tozer up from centre-half into the midfield.
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones also elected to make two changes to his starting team that battled from 2-0 down to salvage a point at Coventry City on Tuesday night.
That saw Ipswich loanee Flynn Downes miss out completely from the matchday squad, while Harry Cornick dropped to the bench.
Elliot Lee was restored to the starting side after his late cameo greatly contributed to the comeback in midweek, with Luke Gambin also returning to the side in a 4-4-2 formation.
Hatters midfielder Alan McCormack made the bench for the first time in nearly six months, having recovered from a prolonged spell on the side-lines with a calf injury.
The Exiles had certainly been making fast starts to proceedings in recent matches and this game was no different as they had the lead within two minutes.
Dazzling footwork from Aaron Collins saw him skip past three or four challenges with relative ease near the left-hand side of the penalty area, seeing a shot saved by Hatters goalkeeper Marek Stech, although the shot stopper could only parry the ball into the path of Josh Sheehan eight yards out to score for the second match in succession.
It was an end-to-end affair at Rodney Parade as Luton searched for an instant response - and they almost found it with ten minutes on the clock.
Dan Potts delivered an inviting cross into the danger zone that Danny Hylton broke the offside trap to get hold of, Joe Day alert to play until the whistle and divert the reactive flick around his near post.
The resulting corner also had to be dealt with, Mickey Demetriou rising highest on the goal line to turn away a Luke Berry shot.
Luton couldn’t cope with the blistering pace from Collins in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, this time skipping past Jack Stacey assuredly before floating a delivery into the area. Ex-Hatter Robbie Willmott saw a header bounce back off the post, with Luton captain Scott Cuthbert clearing the danger.
Both teams were certainly making it an entertaining attacking encounter in South Wales, lots of intricate passing on show in the middle, although it was from a set-piece that gave Luton their equaliser on 23 minutes.
The corner-kicks of Alan Sheehan were causing trouble to the County back-line from the word go, this time Dan Potts rising highest to head home into the top corner from 14 yards.
The away side may have even turned the game on it’s head just 45 seconds after their equaliser, Day again having to produce a world-class save with his leg to deny James Collins, who had skilfully worked his way into the area to fashion a shot.
Collins again came close for the visitors with ten minutes of the half remaining, this time seeing a curling effort come back off the crossbar after a looping ball into his path from Luke Berry.
Despite the indication of one additional minute added time, no further chances could be created by either side at Rodney Parade, as they both had to settle for heading back to the dressing rooms level.
It was an end to end affair throughout what was an enthralling first 45 minutes, both sides creating a whole host of chances, with a draw probably the fair result at half-time.
Aaron Collins was at his mesmerising best during the first-half, by far and above the player causing the most damage to the Luton defence from a County perspective, in what was a very fast-flowing game by both sides.
The pairing of Hylton and Collins was also a source of attacking intent for the visitors, who were certainly happy to put a string of passes together to create the attacks, with County fortunate to see Joe Day alert to repel most of the Hatters attack.
Interestingly, the sheer volume of chances created in the first-half couldn’t quite transpire into the second-half, with it taking until the 66th minute for another chance to be fashioned.
But even on that occasion Hylton could only fire high and wide out of the stadium, as the game was certainly transforming into much more of a determined midfield battle in South Wales.
That battling resilience transpired into the final ten minutes of the contest as-well, County substitute Frank Nouble trying his luck from the edge-of-the-area in what was a rare opportunity, although it was never going to test Stech in the away goal.
That was how it stayed at Rodney Parade despite the indication of three additional minutes at the end of the game, a draw probably the fair result after both sides battled valiantly throughout.
County: Day, Butler, Demetriou, White, O’Brien, Willmott, Dolan, Sheehan (Nouble 70’), Tozer, Amond (McCoulsky 86’), Collins
Subs not used: Bittner, Pipe, Jackson, Bennett, Reid
Luton Town: Stech, Potts, Sheehan, Cuthbert (C), Stacey, Berry, Rea, Lee (Cornick 68’), Gambin (McCormack 88’), Collins, Hylton (Jervis 84’)
Subs not used: Shea, Justin, Mullins, Lee
Referee: Craig Hicks
Attendance: 3,512 (589 AWAY)
Next up for County: Crewe Alexandra (24th March) HOME