Newport County AFC had to settle for a second successive stalemate following a 0-0 draw against Port Vale at Vale Park.
An entertaining second-half followed what was an uninspiring first 45 minutes where both sides created their best chances in the first quarter-of-an-hour.
Mark O’Brien fired a chance wide from inside the six-yard area after clever work from Mickey Demetriou, while Valiant midfielder Michael Tonge saw an attempt ricochet off the post at the other end.
O’Brien also had one of County’s better chances in the second-half as-well, only to be denied by a stunning reaction header from Vale striker Tom Pope.
The second-half was certainly much more of an open contest following the midfield battle in the first, with substitute Shawn McCoulsky curling a good chance wide when free in the area.
A point sees the Exiles rise one place in the League 2 table and up to 13th, although the gap on the play-offs continues to increase with it now being nine points off the top-seven.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that played out a goalless draw with Notts County at Rodney Parade last weekend.
Joss Labadie began his two-match suspension after accruing his tenth yellow card of the season during the game, being replaced by Matty Dolan in the midfield.
The other change saw Frank Nouble return to the starting side in place of Shawn McCoulsky, with the Exiles lining up once again in a 3-5-2 formation in Stoke-on-Trent.
Port Vale manager Neil Aspin made just the one change to his starting side that suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat to Swindon Town last time out.
That saw defender Joe Davies replace winger Marcus Harness, with the Valiants choosing to go with a change of formation for the game after failing to win so far in 2018.
The home side were implementing a 3-4-1-2 system from the off at Vale Park, although neither side could really get a foothold on proceedings for the first ten minutes.
County were the side to create the first clear-cut chance of note and should have taken the lead from it.
Ben Tozer’s long throw into the area was flicked on well by Mickey Demetriou into Mark O’Brien’s path, although the Irishman couldn’t quite get the right connection to it and the shot from four yards sailed over the crossbar.
That seemed to awaken the home side after a somewhat slow opening from them and they came agonisingly close to an opener on 12 minutes.
Tom Pope did well to nutmeg Ben White around 25-yards out before setting Michael Tonge up for the shot on the angle, the post coming to County’s rescue after the thunderous attempt.
Some intricate play from Tonge and Luke Hannant almost gave Vale another opening shortly after, but Pope couldn’t quite get the power required on the back-heel to test Joe Day following an inviting cross.
That was all for the afternoon’s entertainment in the opening half-hour, neither side really getting a foothold on proceedings, as the game was turning much more into a frantic midfield battle.
Two minutes were indicated at the end of the first-half, but even those additional extras couldn’t produce a further opportunity as both sides went in at the break level.
It was a somewhat uninspiring first-half from both sides, with the best chances coming in the opening 15 minutes.
Both sides were cancelling each-other out for the majority of the first-half, with most of the action taking place in the midfield third of the pitch.
County did have several free-kicks that came to nothing in the middle part of the half, the Vale defence standing firm and managing to block the attempts from both Robbie Willmott and Dolan.
Frank Nouble was unlucky on several occasions to not latch on to looping passes from Mickey Demetriou, although home goalkeeper Ryan Boot would have been mightily pleased with the output from his defence in the opening 45 minutes.
Valiant talisman Pope was causing the greatest threat to the County defence if any from the home side, but they only had Tonge’s shot coming back off the post to show from their first-half exploits.
The second-half certainly started a lot better and County came inches away from an opener on 55 minutes.
Boot got down well to deny Nouble’s powerful volley inside the six-yard area, before O’Brien was only prevented his first of the season with his own volley from 18 yards by a flying defensive header from Pope on the goal line.
The game was certainly beginning to open up at Vale Park, and Padraig Amond twice came close before the hour mark through a shot that was saved well by boot and a header that narrowly evaded the far post.
Day was happy to see a speculative effort from substitute Ben Whitfield sail wide of his near post at the other end, as Vale were intent on making a game of it by creating their opening chance of the second period.
Demetriou had to be alert to thwart a quick counter-attack from Dave Worrall with 17 minutes to play, superbly timing his tackle before the winger could burst into the area.
Pope had Vale’s first shot on target shortly after, but the header from eight yards was never in any danger of causing Day too much trouble in the County goal.
You could slightly sense that the ascendency was turning in the home sides favour at Vale Park, so Flynn made a double change to try and provide fresh legs to the attacking unit.
Shawn McCoulsky and Paul Hayes both came on in place of Amond and Nouble. And immediately that almost worked to perfection as Hayes saw a header blocked out for a corner within 30 seconds of his introduction.
With ten minutes left to play, the substitutions almost worked again but McCoulsky passed up a glorious chance to net the opener.
The raising of the linesman’s flag to indicate a foul for County seemed to startle the home side somewhat, but the Exiles played on with menace to create the chance, with McCoulsky curling wide when found completely unmarked inside the area.
Worrall could have given the Valiants the lead right at the start of the three additional minutes added on at the end of the second-half, but didn’t get anywhere close to the right connection and the volley sailed well over the bar.
Vale also had a penalty appeal turned down right at the end, but no further chances could be created in Stoke-On-Trent as both sides played out a draw against each other for the second time this season.
County: Day, Pipe, Demetriou, O’Brien, White, Butler, Dolan, Tozer, Willmott, Amond (McCoulsky 76’), Nouble (Hayes 76’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Jackson, Reid, Osadebe, Sheehan
Port Vale: Boot, Davies, Smith, Pugh, Gibbons (Whitfield 45’), Worrall, Tonge (Harness 82’), Montano, Hannant (Barnett 60’), Howkins, Pope
Subs not used: Lainton, Howe, Raglan, Forrester
Referee: Tom Nield
Attendance: 4,013 (288 Away)
Next up for County: Accrington Stanley (3rd March 2018) HOME