Padraig Amond scored past his former side as Newport County AFC remained in fourth position of the League Two table with a 1-1 home draw against Morecambe.
Familiar nemesis Kevin Ellison’s late strike cancelled out Amond’s opener after just 19 seconds, as the Exiles couldn’t replicate their usual late heroics when having to settle for a point.
That means County’s winless home record against the Shrimps continues, but Lincoln City and Exeter City both lost so the Exiles still only remain outside the automatic promotion places by a solitary point.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that battled hard for a deserved point at Bury FC in midweek.
After County’s tempo and urgency notably altered following Antoine Semenyo’s 52nd minute introduction, the attacker came in from the off this time around, taking the place of Charlie Cooper in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
The other change saw Matty Dolan make a welcome return from injury, replacing Tyler Forbes who was named as part of the County substitutes.
Morecambe manager Jim Bentley also made two changes to his side which suffered a narrow defeat at home to Mansfield Town on Tuesday night.
A familiar name to County supporters in Kevin Ellison was surprisingly named on the bench, his place in the 4-2-3-1 starting formation taken by Rhys Oates.
The Shrimps had a lengthy injury list ahead of their trip to Rodney Parade but that was at least eased slightly by the return of talismanic midfielder Aaron Wildig, with Ben Hedley dropping to the bench.
In yesterday’s pre-match press conference, Flynn admitted his frustrations at how slowly County had been starting matches both home and away.
He himself offered the statistic that the Exiles had conceded 12 goals in the opening 30 minutes of matches, and another alarming statistic sees County conceding the first goal in 11 of the 19 matches in all competitions so far this season.
So the only way to appease the manager and help alleviate those statistics would obviously be to get an early goal – and that’s exactly what County did by grabbing the first of the afternoon in the whole of the Football League.
Morecambe only had one touch in the opening 19 seconds before County scored, and even that was Josef Yarney clearing a Dan Butler cross that was destined for Antoine Semenyo.
Robbie Willmott gathered the somewhat lax clearance from the centre-half on the right corner of the penalty area, drilling the ball back in for Jamille Matt to force a world-class save from Barry Roche, but Padraig Amond was quickest to it to head home into the empty net.
In County’s Halloween Spooktacular fixture at Rodney Parade, Amond certainly got into character when coming back to haunt his former side and it could have been a complete horror start for the visitors, but Roche palmed away the free header from Semenyo after just six minutes.
Morecambe did grow into the contest the longer it transpired, however, and Joe Day had to read the situation well to keep out a looping Jordan Cranston free-kick.
The visitors were getting their best success when playing splitting passes through the heart of the County defence but couldn’t find the target before the half-hour mark – and even when they did manage to finally break Day’s resistance, Willmott had tracked back to clear Rhys Oates’ attempt.
Zak Mills also saw an attempt drift wide after more splitting play from the away side, but the majority of the play was still coming from the Exiles despite that small period of possession for Morecambe.
On his return from injury, Matty Dolan saw a 35-yard free-kick just go past the far post, Jamille Matt also went for an audacious long-ranger but that went wide as well, alongside a decent opportunity for Willmott.
The longer proceedings progressed, the more the wind and rain started to affect conditions, and County almost profited when Butler tried to outfox Roche when it initially looked like he’d cross, but the 36-year old shot stopper used all his experience to ensure he wasn’t beaten.
The two minutes of additional time came and went without a further murmur from either side – another commanding performance from the Exiles even if it was just a solitary goal advantage.
The only negative for County was Bennett feeling an aggravation on his hamstring that forced him off midway through the half – and that wasn’t helped when Mark O’Brien also had to withdraw at half-time with the same issue.
Tyler Forbes and Cameron Pring came on, but it left County with a central-defensive trio of Demetriou, Pipe and Butler.
There wasn’t too much in terms of opportunities to start second-half proceedings as it was certainly a tense midfield battle at Rodney Parade.
The rain had stopped but the wind remained, and County were almost caught out as Cranston thought he’d try his luck from 45+ yards and to be fair, the swirling conditions saw it nestle on Day’s roof.
Semenyo curled wide when in space near the Morecambe penalty area, but it was on the 70-minute mark when County couldn’t believe that they hadn’t doubled their advantage.
After a succession of corners, County finally managed to create the space to get a shot away but when Forbes looked destined to get his first ever goal for the Exiles, Mills got his back foot to it to divert it via the post and away.
But while County couldn’t put the game to bed, Morecambe stayed resilient and kept chipping away – resulting in finding their equaliser in the 77th minute.
No guesses for who finished the swift Morecambe counter-attack as substitute Kevin Ellison again came to Rodney Parade and found the target against Newport County AFC.
His sixth goal against the Exiles came after a slip near the area from a County defender, the 39-year old using all his experience to latch onto the pass, compose himself, and calmly slot past Day into the centre of the goal.
The introduction of another centre-half saw Morecambe attempt to sit back and take a point – and they were doing a good job about it as well when nullifying the rampant Exiles attack.
Five minutes were indicated at the end of proceedings and Forbes almost got that inaugural goal he was prevented earlier on when clipping the crossbar.
No usual late heroics from the Exiles unfortunately – meaning County’s winless home record against the Lancashire outfit will have to continue for another season.
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Day, Butler, Bennett (Forbes 22’), Demetriou (C), O’Brien (Pring 45’), Pipe, Dolan, Willmott, Semenyo, Amond, Matt (Semenyo 79’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Cooper, For Sheehan, Marsh-Brown
Morecambe (4-2-3-1): Roche, Mills, Yarney, Lavelle, Conlan, Wildig, Cranston (Ellison 70’), Mandeville (Kenyon 80’), Leitch-Smith, Oates (Oswell 70’), Oliver
Subs not used: Halstead, Piggott, Hedley, Cuvelier
Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 3,206 (54 AWAY)
Next up for County: Carlisle United (3rd November 2018) AWAY