Newport County AFC have concluded 2018 just like they did 12 months ago by securing a point in a 0-0 draw with Crawley Town.
Padraig Amond saw two headers saved by Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris in the first-half, Joe McNerney came closest for the visitors but his header from a corner-kick was comfortable for Joe Day, meaning the sides couldn't be seperated and had to settle for a point at Rodney Parade.
The point does see the Exiles move up a place in the League Two table to 10th, but the gap remains four points on the play-off positions and 14 points off top of the league Lincoln City.
Having suffered a comprehensive home defeat to Forest Green Rovers on Wednesday, Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the starting side but kept to the usual 3-4-1-2 formation.
One of those changes was enforced as midfielder Joss Labadie missed out with a suspected knee injury, the scan results of which still remain unclear, and his place within the midfield was taken by the returning captain Andrew Crofts.
Tyler Forbes made a welcome return to the starting side having overcome his injury concerns, Robbie Willmott also coming back in, as David Pipe and Tyreeq Bakinson were named amongst the substitutes.
Crawley Town manager Gabriele Cioffi matched Flynn when also making three changes to his side that suffered an agonising late defeat at Cambridge United on Boxing Day.
It wasn’t exactly the most enterprising of opening 45 minutes at Rodney Parade, however, with chances certainly coming at a premium right throughout the entirety of the first-half.
Interestingly, both sides found their closest opportunities from aerial deliveries into the opposition’s penalty area, with former Exile Reece Grego-Cox the first to test Joe Day on 14 minutes with a powerful header from a looping corner-kick.
Shortly after that opportunity, County themselves tested the Crawley goalkeeper with a powerful header after some neat interchange, Padraig Amond testing the palms of Glenn Morris after an exquisite long-ball into the area.
Same story again for Crawley on 27 minutes as they again almost utilised a looping corner-kick into the penalty area. This time defender Mark Connolly rose to meet the delivery, but Day held the attempt after reading the intentions expertly well.
Back came County in a game where neither side could hold the ascendency for a large period of the first-half, Amond probably frustrated with himself that he couldn’t make the most of two headers from Matty Dolan and Robbie Willmott crosses.
Jamille Matt then showcased what he can do best with the ball at his feet but still the deadlock remained unbroken, his trickery to beat Joe McNerney and Josh Doherty resulted in finding Amond on the edge of the area, but he shot just over the crossbar on the turn.
It was certainly a case of two teams devoid of confidence at Rodney Parade as the two additional minutes of time added on passed without too much incident, away captain Danny Bulman seeing a shot blocked by Fraser Franks, but it was speculative at best and was never going to test Day in the County goal.
The second-half didn’t start in that much of a better pace either as both teams continued to try and work each other out, whilst also trying to end 2018 on a positive note.
As the hour mark elapsed in South Wales, both sides had had one further opportunity but neither looked like testing the respective goalkeepers, Panutche Camara blazed straight at Day from distance and Tyler Forbes sent a speculative effort way too high of the crossbar.
Back to the headed opportunities being the order of the day and on 62 minutes came the best opportunity so far in the contest, Fraser Franks glancing a header just past the post after a free-kick which initially looked like it might just creep in.
You’d have to say County were becoming the more dominant force if any when trying to find that priceless opening goal, and Amond wasn’t too far away when causing a goalmouth scramble from a toe poke at the far post.
But it just wasn't to be for the Exiles as Crawley stood firm to take a point from Rodney Parade - the second successive occassion County have concluded a year with a draw.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Forbes (Harris 78’), Franks, Bennett, Demetriou, Butler, Crofts (C) (O’Brien 51’), Dolan (Bakinson 57’), Willmott, Amond, Matt
Subs not used: Townsend, Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Sheehan
Crawley Town (3-5-2): Morris, Doherty, McNerney, Connolly, Francomb, Sesay, Payne, Bulman (C), Camara, Grego-Cox (Gambin 77’), Poleon
Subs not used: Mersin, Maguire, N’Gala, Allarakhia, Nathaniel-George
Referee: Antony Coggins
Attendance: 3,166 (80 AWAY)
Next up for County: Stevenage (1st January 2019) AWAY