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Two stunning free-kicks from Matty Dolan ensured Newport County AFC took a share of the spoils at Rodney Parade as the Exiles drew 3-3 with Carlisle United.

Somewhat surprisingly with the amount of goals at Rodney Parade, only one of them came in the first-half.

That came with five minutes left of the half, as Shawn McCoulsky continued his rich vein of scoring form. It came after a Matty Dolan free-kick caused confusion in the area, Demetriou got a feint touch to flick it on and McCoulsky dinked it in off the crossbar from 10 yards.

But in a stunning start to proceedings in the second-half, five goals were scored in just 25 minutes.

And the first of those came within 50 seconds of the restart as Luke Joyce stabbed in from two yards after Dan Butler had superbly blocked the original attempt on the goal-line.

Carlisle made it 2-1 in the 53rd minute through Kelvin Etuhu, with the striker firing in from just outside the six-yard area after County had failed to clear a delivery into the box.

Matty Dolan replied within 90 seconds of that goal, with the first of his stunning free-kicks, this one a 30-yarder that nestled into the top corner.

Ex-Exile Tom Miller came back to haunt County in the 63rd minute to give Carlisle the lead again, rising highest from a corner to squirm a header through the legs of Joe Day.

But Dolan again scored a free-kick with twenty minutes remaining, this time a little further out, as the two sides settled for a point apiece.

Mike Flynn elected to make just the one change to the side that played in the 2-0 victory over Cambridge United in the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday.

That saw Robbie Willmott return into the starting side, as Ben Tozer missed out on the matchday squad. The like-for-like change in the midfield meant the Exiles kept to the familiar 3-5-2 formation at Rodney Parade.

Carlisle manager Keith Curle also made one change to his side that played on Sunday in the Emirates FA Cup.

Danny Grainger missed out with the rib injury sustained in that 1-1 draw with Gillingham, as ex-Exile Tom Miller came in as part of a 4-4-2 system for the away side.   

And it was the visitors who made all the early running in the opening ten minutes.

Kelvin Etuhu had the best chance in that spell, although couldn’t convert the chance when found unmarked in the area from a Reggie Lambe free-kick.  

But County grew into the game the longer it progressed, and were perhaps unlucky on a few occasions to have shots blocked by a stubborn Carlisle defence.

When the first chance did arrive on 16 minutes, it required a fantastic save from away goalkeeper Jack Bonham to keep the Exiles out. Mickey Demetriou was the man to have the shot, although couldn’t quite get the bend on it from 30 yards to sneak it into the far corner.

The ascendency was certainly changing at Rodney Parade and County were mightily unlucky to be denied again on 22 minutes.

Ben White played a delightful ball over the defence into Robbie Willmott’s path, although the midfielder took a little too long to control the pass and Tom Parkes recovered well to block the strike.

Shawn McCoulsky was next to be denied by a fantastic stop from Bonham, this time the goalkeeper reacting well as the ball did bounce about a yard ahead of him.  

At the other end, the away side almost capitalised on an error at the back with ten minutes to go in the half, although Lambe could only fire straight at Joe Day.

And not long after that, County were deservedly in-front on the 40th minute as McCoulsky grabbed his 9th goal of the season.

Matty Dolan’s free-kick from wide caused massive confusion in the area and after Demetriou had done well to head back into the area, McCoulsky nipped in front of his marker to loop a shot in off the crossbar.

Willmott fired a free-kick over at the beginning of the one additional minute added time as County went in at the break ahead.

It was the first time County had scored in the opening 45 minutes of a league game since October 14th and it was a deserved lead on the balance of the opening proceedings.

After an uncharacteristic poor first ten minutes, the Exiles bossed the proceedings and were causing a lot of problems to Carlisle from all areas of the pitch.  

But within a minute of the restart, Carlisle snatched an equaliser.

It was realistically a carbon-copy of the County goal, as Miller’s delivery caused confusion in the area. Reggie Lambe had an attempt blocked on the line by Dan Butler, but it only delayed the inevitable as captain Luke Joyce stabbed in.

And just six minutes later, the away side took the lead.

Another delivery caused some confusion in the County area, with the clearance only going as far as an awaiting Etuhu just outside the six-yard area, who fired through two defenders and inside the near post.

But in the most dramatic of opening 10 minutes of a half at Rodney Parade, County got back on level terms. This time Matty Dolan got in on the action, firing a picture perfect free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards.

In-between all the commotion of the three goals, Lamar Reynolds came on for his first league minutes in over a month, replacing David Pipe.

And the goals just kept on flowing at Rodney Parade, with Carlisle re-taking the lead in the 63rd minute.

Another corner wasn’t fully dealt with in the area, and ex-Exile Miller rose highest from the second delivery to head through the legs of a helpless Joe Day.

Labadie almost made it 3-3 just a minute later as chances continued to be created by both sides, only to see the attempt blocked onto the outside of the post.

You couldn’t write this script – and a fifth goal of the second half came in just the 70th minute.

Dolan again fired in a stunning free-kick, about a further five yards out from the first attempt, and it nestled in exactly the same spot in the far top right corner.

Up until the indication of the five additional minutes, no furthers chances could be created by either side.

But in the first 15 seconds of the extras, Labadie had a great chance to snatch it. A Nouble overhead kick superbly fell into his captain’s path, although he couldn’t quite find the far corner with a low strike.

Labadie had another opportunity to win it with 60 seconds remaining, although again couldn’t quite direct a headed attempt on target.  

And Bonham had to pull off what may be a save of the season contender to keep Carlisle ahead. Dan Butler looked for all the world like he would score, only for a stunning fingertip save to prevent a County win.

That was the final chance of what was a pulsating half of football from both teams, ensuring a first draw between the sides since 28th February 1987.  


County: Day, Pipe (Reynolds 53’), Demetriou, O’Brien, White, Butler, Labadie (C), Willmott, Dolan, Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 82’)

Subs not used: Bittner, Bennett, Owen-Evans, Touray, Rigg


Carlisle: Bonham, Miller, Hill, Parkes, Brown (Hope 65’), Jones, Liddle, Joyce, Lambe (O’Sullivan 87’), Bennett (Miller 82’), Etuhu

Subs not used: Devitt, Cosgrove, Ellis, George


Referee: Lee Swabey

Attendance: 3,179 (160 AWAY)

Next up for County: Cambridge United (16th December) AWAY