Matty Dolan scored his first goal for Newport County AFC as the Exiles were held to a 1-1 draw with Port Vale.
A dramatic second-half followed a relatively low-key opening 45 minutes, that only produced one clear-cut opportunity, which saw Shawn McCoulsky see a header cleared off the line.
And Dolan netted the opener just eight minutes after the break, smashing home from the edge of the area after a picturesque run and subsequent through ball into Dolan’s path from a breakaway move by Robbie Willmott.
But when the Valiants launched their own quick counter-attack, that also resulted in a goal. Substitute Anton Forrester was the man to get it, with just ten minutes to go, coolly dispatching past Joe Day after being found unmarked in the area from a long ball.
It was a fair result for both sides, who had their own individual spells of dominance during the game, as the two teams took a point from the contest at Rodney Parade.
Mike Flynn elected to make ten changes to the County side that started the 2-1 defeat to Cheltenham Town in the CheckaTrade Trophy on Tuesday night.
It was, however, the same team used from the off in the Emirates FA Cup victory over Walsall last Saturday.
That meant Mark O’Brien recovered from the foot injury that saw him taken off against Walsall, as County again fielded the familiar 3-5-2 formation.
Port Vale manager Neil Aspin also named the same team that started in the Emirates FA Cup last weekend, meaning it was seven changes for the Valiants from the CheckaTrade Trophy game in midweek.
That saw a 4-2-3-1 formation selected from the off, with Tom Pope, who had scored seven goals from his previous six appearances, starting up-front.
And Pope would be the only Port Vale player to create an opportunity from the opening exchanges, although couldn’t direct his header goalward.
Mickey Demetriou also failed to make any significant contact to his header from Butler’s cross at the other end, as both sides shared the opening 15 minutes with both goalkeeper’s content with the output from their respective defences.
But that could have all changed on 17 minutes as County may have taken the lead after a sustained spell in possession.
Frank Nouble did superbly well to hold off the challenge of away left-back Tyler Denton, before getting a shot away from the edge of the area.
Nathan Smith blocked the effort but could only deflect the ball into the path of Shawn McCoulsky. The Bristol City loanee couldn’t quite play the ball to an awaiting Matty Dolan, as the attack broke down.
That was all for the entertainment in the opening 30 minutes of the evening, County looking the more likely to find an opener, although the away side seemingly had an answer to every David Pipe or Dan Butler cross into the area.
Port Vale seemed quite comfortable to hold onto the ball for lengthy periods; even if not testing Joe Day in the County goal from some positive looking counter-attacks, as Pope had a volley blocked and midfielder Danny Pugh blazed way over the crossbar.
McCoulsky came agonisingly close again to scoring for the third successive league game at Rodney Parade on 33 minutes, only to see Denton block his attempt on the line following Dolan’s corner.
The indication of one-minute additional time couldn’t inspire either side to create a further opportunity in the opening 45 minutes as both sides went in level.
It would be fair to say that the first-half was certainly end-to-end action, both sides enjoying spells in possession, although no clear-cut chances could be created except for McCoulsky’s header that was cleared off the goal line.
County had the beating of both full-backs throughout, Pipe especially delivering some testing deliveries into the area, only for the two Port Vale centre-backs to expertly read any potential danger.
Valiants manager Aspin clearly sensed a weakness from his full-backs during the first-half, as Denton came off at the break for Anton Forrester. This also saw a change of system for the away side, as they reverted to a 4-4-2 formation for the second-half.
The offside flag came to County’s rescue just three minutes after the interval, as Pope headed a Dave Worrall free-kick back across the goal; and just as Tom Anderson looked like he may net the opener, referee John Busby blew his whistle to stop the chance.
And the Valiants were made to pay for that missed opportunity as Matty Dolan scored his first goal of the campaign in the 53rd minute.
It was the product of a mesmerising run from Robbie Willmott, who perfectly split both the midfield and the defence with ease, before setting the ball up for Dolan, who rifled the ball almost through the goalkeeper and into the middle of the net from just inside the area.
Marcus Harness headed narrowly wide as the visitors went in search of an instant response, although that derailed somewhat as Pope was involved in an off the ball incident with twenty-two minutes to go, that resulted in the front-man booked by the referee.
Pope headed straight at Day just after for Vale’s first shot on the target of the night, which seemed to give Aspin the license to make a double substitution to try to impact on the game.
Christian Montano and Christopher Regis both came on, the latter only signing for the club on Tuesday, replacing Pugh and Worrall.
And Montano could have been instantly involved for the away side, although didn’t quite react in time to get anything on a dangerous looking drilled cross from Harness that flashed across the goal-mouth.
Flynn clearly sensed that Vale were gradually beginning to get a foothold in the game, making his first change of the night, as Padraig Amond came on for the final eleven minutes in place of McCoulsky.
But after Nouble fired straight at the goalkeeper from distance, Vale launched a quick-counter attack that ended with Forrester netting the equaliser with ten to go.
It was exactly what Aspin would have been hoping for when sending on Forrester on at half-time, as he calmly collected a long-ball into the area unmarked, before blasting through Day and into the far corner.
Both sides created chances as the game approached the indication of added time, Dolan seeing a shot blocked right at the beginning of the four minutes added on.
Amond headed straight at Ryan Boot with a free header two minutes into the additional time, in what was the final opportunity of the night.
A point probably the correct result, with both sides taking their main chance of a fast-tempo game at Rodney Parade.
County: Day, Butler, White, Demetriou, O’Brien (C), Pipe, Dolan, Tozer, Willmott, Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 80’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Reynolds, Jackson, Bennett, Owen-Evans, Rigg
Port Vale: Boot, Denton (Forrester 45’), Anderson, Smith, Gunning, Gibbons, Pugh (C) (Montano 71’), Kay, Worrall (Regis 71’), Harness, Pope
Subs not used: Hornby, Yates, Turner, Tonge
Referee: John Busby
Attendance: 2,876 (271 away)
Next up for County: Accrington Stanley (18th November) AWAY