Newport 2-2 Hartlepool
After being twelve points from safety at the bottom of Sky Bet League 2, a run of four successive wins for the visitors helped them climb out of the bottom two and they arrived at Rodney Parade looking to make it five wins out of five.
County on the other hand knew that a result was a necessity, on an afternoon which saw them drop to ninth in the table at half time, but by the final whistle it was as though Good Friday’s games hadn’t even happened.
Both sides needed the three points for very different reasons. There are so many teams vying for the playoff places that one goal around the country saw sides drop three or four places at various points throughout the afternoon. The game started promisingly for County, O’Connor and Byrne worked well together to create a few half chances in the early period of the game, although these came to nothing.
The first goal of the game came completely against the run of play. After a good run down the left hand side of the pitch from Hartlepool, the in-swinging right footed cross landed on Lee Minshull’s head three yards from goal as he tried to prevent Jordan Hugill connecting with it. Joe Day was helpless as the ball sailed past him and into the net to give the visitors the lead.
Once they had the lead the visitors looked like doubling their advantage. Newport struggled to string passes together in a spell of play which saw long balls sent the length of the field for O’Connor and Storey to try and reach.
Whilst County had the majority of the possession they were not creating anything with it and it was Jonathon Franks who had the chance to put the visitors’ two goals ahead when he beat the offside trap and bore down on goal, only to pull his shot across the face of goal and past the far post.
Franks was influential in the Pools second goal after his shot from twenty two yards struck the bar and looped high in the air before a scramble in the box resulted in a one yard tap in for Hugill.
It appeared as though the league’s in-form side would be another team to prevent County from taking three points away from Rodney Parade. With five minutes of the first half remaining Newport began to play some good football and reaped the rewards when Max Porter played a ball square across the edge of the penalty area for Darren Jones to run on to and unleash a rocket of a shot that went through everybody and buried itself into the bottom corner of the goal.
Newport had more chances before half time to level the affair but Scott Flinders in the visiting goal was able to deal with the crosses and they went into the break leading by two goals to one.
HALF TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY AFC 1 – 2 HARTLEPOOL UNITED FC
Newport came out for the second half a much stronger side and looked threatening early on. The crowd could sense that an early goal may be on the way and they were proved right when O’Connor received the ball inside the penalty area, rolling away from his mark and placing a shot across the goal into the bottom corner of the net to level the tie sending over three thousand Newport fans into ecstasy.
The game began to get particularly scrappy after the equaliser with both sides desperate for the three points for very different reasons. It became very difficult to play fluid football as free kicks were being awarded in all four corners of the pitch for a variety of different reasons, many of which were to the annoyance of the home supporters. Newport had the best chances of the second half but with an extremely physical game brewing it became harder and harder for County to play the way they wanted.
After seventy minutes Andy Sandell took a thirty yard free kick with his left foot, curling it around the wall towards the top corner, only for Flinders to catch the ball well as it was sailing in. As the game neared its final stages Newport continued to look the stronger side, threatening to steal all three points in the final few moments.
Ismail Yakubu found himself in front of goal with just ten minutes to go but his header from six yards out was straight at Flinders who initially spilt the ball, before tripping Yakubu in his attempt to gather the loose ball amongst huge cries from the home fans for a penalty.
The last chance of the game went to Hartlepool when Joe Day raced out of his goal to gather a loose ball, only to be beaten in the air by Jonathon Franks although thankfully for the Exiles Andy Sandell was there to prevent the ball trickling into the open goal.
Newport may feel as though they should’ve got all three points this afternoon, but with results around the league going their way. All the positions and points gaps in the race for the playoffs remain the same with only six games to go.
FULL TIME: NEWPORT COUNTY AFC 2 – 2 HARTLEPOOL UNITED FC