Mickey Demetriou’s second goal in as many games wasn’t enough for Newport County AFC to take all three points from Rodney Parade on Good Friday as the Exiles had to settle for a 1-1 draw with promotion chasing Coventry City.
Both sides certainly created their fair share of chances in the first-half, but it was County who showed that clinical edge in South Wales by scoring after 40 minutes.
It was the product of some intricate passing play by the Exiles – Robbie Willmott and Paul Hayes combining well down the left-hand side, before Willmott’s cross was superbly backheeled by Padraig Amond into the path of an onrushing Mickey Demetriou to smash home the opener.
Matty Dolan came close to doubling the advantage early in the second-half, only to see his effort narrowly go past the near post from 25 yards, while Marc McNulty came closest in the opening hour down the other end for the away side.
The Sky Blues were gradually working their way back into the contest the longer it progressed at Rodney Parade and they found their equaliser with ten minutes remaining.
Ben White’s unfortunate miscue of a clearance allowed Coventry substitute Kyel Reid to burst into the area and chip a clever ball to the far post, another substitute in Max Biamou arriving at the right time to pass the ball past a helpless Joe Day.
The deserved point at Rodney Parade sees the Exiles remain in 12th position in the League 2 table, although it is still ten points adrift of the play-off positions with seven matches of the season remaining.
Mike Flynn elected to make two changes to the side that suffered just a third home league defeat of the season against Crewe Alexandra last Saturday.
That saw David Pipe come back into the starting line-up for the first time since the six-goal thriller with Forest Green Rovers at the start of the month, while Josh Sheehan made way after some encouraging displays of late.
Despite that alteration not necessarily being a like-for-like one, the Exiles were still able to field a 3-5-2 formation from the first whistle at Rodney Parade, as Robbie Willmott advanced into a midfield position to accommodate the inclusion of Pipe at right wing back.
The other change came in the County strike-force, as Paul Hayes was able to return from a calf injury which had ruled him out of the previous two matches, taking the place of Aaron Collins alongside Padraig Amond up-front.
Coventry City manager Mark Robins chose to name an unchanged team in comparison to the one that secured an emphatic home victory against struggling Grimsby Town last weekend.
That saw the Sky Blues again stick to their familiar 4-4-2 formation at Rodney Parade, with Jonson Clarke-Harris and Mark McNulty once again leading the line.
The Exiles had certainly been making fast starts to proceedings in recent games, but it was the visitors to fashion the opening chance this time out after five minutes.
Peter Vincenti’s well timed through ball found Jonson Clarke-Harris on an overlapping run, although the cross into the area wasn’t the best as an onrushing Jordan Shipley could only direct a header into the side netting.
An offside flag thwarted County’s best opening from the first ten minutes, with Padraig Amond only looking marginally ahead of his marker after what was a superb 30-yard pass from Ben Tozer.
The first chance of any note from a County perspective came in the 18th minute of the contest, although Mickey Demetriou couldn’t quite keep his volleyed effort down as the 30-yard attempt sailed over the crossbar.
An uncharacteristic miscued clearance from Pipe almost presented the Sky Blues with a glorious chance right on the midway point of the first-half, but McNulty couldn’t quite grab his 19th goal of the league season when his effort drifted past the near post.
A clever long-throw from away goalkeeper Lee Burge set the wheels in motion for a counter-attack following a County corner, Shipley charging his way into the area, before releasing McNulty who sent a chipped effort over Joe Day but over the crossbar as-well.
It had looked like the away side were starting to command proceedings at Rodney Parade – but the Exiles were insistent on nullifying that presence and took the lead after 40 minutes.
It was the product of a really smart intricate passage of play by County, Paul Hayes’s pass into Willmott out on the left-side setting the attack in motion.
The midfielder’s cross was perfectly delivered into Amond, who flicked a smart back-heel into the path of an onrushing Demetriou ten yards out to score in successive games for the first time this season.
Ryan Haynes curled a speculative attempt past Joe Day’s near post as the Sky Blues looked for an instant response, but no further chances could be created despite the indication of one-minute additional time, as County took a slender lead back with them to the dressing rooms.
It would be fair to say that both sides certainly had their own spells in control during the match, with County showing that little bit extra of a ruthless streak to take their main chance when it arrived.
Padraig Amond used his aerial prowess to favourable effect when winning several headers in the final third to relieve some pressure away from the County defence, while Mickey Demetriou was doing a superb job in marshalling the defensive unit when under pressure.
You would have to say that Jordan Shipley was the standout player from a Coventry perspective in that opening 45 minutes, clearly the architect of all the chances for the away side, although Joe Day must have been extremely pleased that most of that danger was repelled away from his goal by the County defence.
Paul Hayes was forced off at half-time due to a problem with cramp, meaning Frank Nouble took his place for the second-half against his former employers.
It was County to create the opening chance of the second-half just three minutes after the restart, although Matty Dolan saw his emphatic attempt narrowly go past the near post from 25 yards.
And County may have been made to pay for not extending the lead just two minutes later – and had Day not been alert in the County goal then Coventry would almost certainly have had an equaliser.
Clarke-Harris fizzed another inviting delivery into the area that looked like an easy clearance for Demetriou, only for the ball to come off the wrong part of his foot and towards the goal-line, although Day just about read the situation to prevent the own-goal.
The game was certainly turning into an end-to-end affair as both sides looked for vital points – and Amond was twice denied in the space of 30 seconds from the 63rd minute.
The Irishman lept highest to power a Dolan free-kick towards goal, only for Burge to make one of the saves of the season to keep it out, before Dominic Hyam cleared his effort away off the goal-line from the resulting corner.
You could sense the next goal would be absolutely vital to the outcome of the contest – and Coventry were the side to find it with ten minutes remaining.
Ben White misjudged a long-ball which allowed substitute Kyel Reid to run clear and into the area, chipping a delightful lobbed pass to the far post for another substitute in Max Biamou to smash home from all of six yards.
The indication of four minutes added time gave both teams the license to try and force a dramatic winner.
But no further chances could be created by either side as the two defences held out resiliently to share the points, meaning the Exiles at least remained unbeaten against the Sky Blues this season.
County: Day, Pipe, White, O’Brien (C), Demetriou, Butler, Dolan, Tozer, Willmott (Sheehan 73’), Amond, Hayes (Nouble 45’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Jackson, McCoulsky, Reid, Collins
Coventry City: Burge, Grimmer, Hyam, McDonald, Haynes, Vincenti (Biamou 77’), Bayliss, Doyle (C), Shipley (Reid 65’), McNulty (Ponticelli 70’), Clarke-Harris
Subs not used: O’Brien, Stokes, Davies, Barrett
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 4,667 (1,479 AWAY)
Next up for County: Chesterfield (2nd April 2018) AWAY