A goalless draw at Cheltenham’s Whaddon Road ground earned County a fourth successive clean sheet in a match the Exiles felt they should have won. Attacking towards their large away following in the second-half, the ever-dangerous Conor Washington struck the base of an upright, whilst a Tom Naylor effort was desperately scrambled from the goal-line. Such are the fine margins of success I guess; County would surely have pinched the points on another day, however they remain unbeaten in five and sit nestled nicely amongst the League Two play-off chasing pack.
Boss Justin Edinburgh named another unchanged starting XI, with new loan signing George Barker from Brighton amongst a full plethora of substitutes. The Robins included a familiar face amidst their ranks in winger Sam Deering; a player that formerly enjoyed two loan spells with Newport. A magnificent away support just shy of a thousand saw the Exiles impress during an opening half in which they were clearly the better side territorially; unfortunately, actual clear-cut goal chances were at something of a premium.
An early Danny Crow header sailed wide of the mark, whilst the thrusting combination of Christian Jolley and Conor Washington asked plenty of questions of the home rearguard; sadly for County, Town keeper Scott Brown was to remain largely untroubled. Deering went close for Cheltenham on 29 minutes, before the best Newport opening of the half arrived on 38 minutes, when speedy wing-back Ryan Jackson burst into the visitors penalty area before blazing a shot wide. The best the Robins would muster by response was a Jamie Cureton opportunity shortly afterwards; thankfully it was one that the prolific veteran spurned with Lenny Pidgeley remaining about as busy as his opposite number.
Second-half, County had a little more vigour and purpose about them as their passionate supporters roared them towards goal. It looked as if the breakthrough had been made on 58 minutes when Washington’s pace took him clear, unfortunately the frame of the goal thought otherwise and the striker’s crisp shot cannoned to safety off an interfering post. With Newport visibly on top, Cheltenham made a change soon after, striker Jermaine McGlashan replacing Matt Richards; but County continued to look the more likely.
Lee Minshull was introduced for the booked Adam Chapman on 77 minutes; whilst three minutes later, Tom Naylor was convinced he had won it for County. A Robbie Willmott corner caused panic in the home defence, and Naylor’s stab towards goal at the far post looked mightily close to creeping over the line, before being hacked clear. Had it crossed the line? Referee Mr. Madley deemed not and the Exiles remained frustrated. New loan striker George Barker entered the fray for his Newport debut on 84 minutes, but the game by that point was always destined to finish goalless; a fact born out by Ismail Yakubu’s fantastic sliding tackle in the 90th minute just as Byron Harrison seemed set to pull the trigger for a rather undeserved Cheltenham winner.
“I think any away point with a clean sheet in this league is a good one,” explained defender Harry Worley afterwards; “We had chances to win the game but are happy with a point. Conor hit the post, Tom Naylor had one cleared off the line; I don’t know how that one hasn’t gone in to be honest – I think we definitely had the better chances but this is a tough place to come. All we can do is keep picking up points and make sure we stay where we want to be.”