Jamille Matt’s stoppage time header ensured Newport County AFC closed the gap on the top of the League Two table to just two points with a 3-3 draw at home to Macclesfield Town.
It was a game full of penalties, three in total, and every single one of them was hit with conviction as David Fitzpatrick scored two of them and Mickey Demetriou also converted his spot kick.
Fitzpatrick’s first penalty doubled the visitors lead after Fiacre Kelleher emphatically head home, while Dan Butler made it 2-1 after a superb corner-kick tactic from the Exiles.
Demetriou then equalised on the hour with his well-placed spot kick, but Fitzpatrick ensured the Silkmen again retook the lead with eight minutes remaining, before Matt headed home with the last play of the game.
The result sees County remain in the automatic promotion spots and still four points clear of the chasing teams currently occupying the play-offs, while the Exiles remain level with Exeter City and two points behind Lincoln City.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that fought back from two goals down to beat Cambridge United on Saturday.
Having missed his first league game in nearly two years due to personal reasons on Saturday, Joe Day came back in-between the sticks to replace Nick Townsend, while Charlie Cooper made his inaugural League Two start of the season in place of Josh Sheehan.
The final change brought about a slight formation change for the Exiles, with Mark O’Brien missing out through a hamstring injury. Jamille Matt came in after his two-goal heroics on Saturday so County elected a 4-3-3 formation from the first whistle.
Macclesfield Town manager Mark Yates chose to make the solitary one change from his side that stemmed the flow of losses at home to Forest Green Rovers last time out.
Midfielder Peter Vincenti came in instead of the highly experienced Danny Whitaker, who missed out completely from the matchday squad, and the Silkmen fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation at Rodney Parade.
Nobody could argue that, despite the eventual result on Saturday, it was a slow start to proceedings from a County perspective and unfortunately, those fears were again realised as Macclesfield Town raced into a two-nil lead within ten minutes.
The opener came within five minutes and saw Oxford United loanee Fiacre Kelleher grab his second of the season. The defender worked his way between the County centre-halves from a Jared Hodgkiss corner-kick to rise highest and power a header inside the far post.
It was a cagey opening before the goal, both sides having a share of possession, but the goal clearly inspired the previously winless away side and they found a way to double their lead in the 10th minute.
Kieran O’Hara’s long ball towards the half-way line was flicked on by the imposing figure of Nathan Blissett, and when Dan Butler and Tyrone Marsh clashed in the area trying to beat each other to it, the referee pointed to the spot and Macclesfield had a penalty.
Full-back David Fitzpatrick sent Joe Day the wrong way to grab his first goal of the campaign, curling into the bottom left-corner with the sort of clinicality that probably meant he would have scored even if Day had guessed right.
Just like against Cambridge three days ago, falling two goals behind seemed to spark County into life and more towards their familiar tempo, although that was helped by Macclesfield’s desire to sit back more and invite the ensuing pressure.
The away side were proving a tough nut to crack, County having to go through the wing channels to get any apparent success, but for the most part the away side were preventing opportunities at Manchester United loanee Kieran O’Hara.
It was always going to take something of quality to unlock an otherwise unbreachable defensive system and the Exiles found that moment of magic just before the half-hour mark.
It was something straight off the training ground that the team had been practising for a couple of weeks, and this time it worked wonders after Cambridge were able to work out the idea on Saturday.
Charlie Cooper played a corner-kick short into Padraig Amond’s path, the Irishman playing a lovely floated ball towards the edge of the area, and when Butler took the ball down with a perfect first-touch, the left-back fired almost through O’Hara to get County back on track.
From that point to the half-time whistle, the Exiles continued to pile on the pressure even though they weren’t able to find an equaliser in the first-half.
After good interchange in and around the area, Amond fired over after O’Hara closed down the angle, while fresh off the back of getting his first of the season on Saturday, the confidence was still brimming in Mickey Demetriou and he only just missed the far post from a good 45 yards.
That was it for the first-half at Rodney Parade and County could probably fell aggrieved for trailing at the interval after dominating the game after the slow opening 10 minutes.
If there’s one thing you can never doubt in County, it’s their ability to react to the team-talk from Flynn at half-time, and they almost levelled within five minutes of the restart.
Fraser Franks’ perfect cross onto the head of Amond looked for all the world like finding the bottom corner, only for the Man Utd loanee O’Hara to unbelievably get a palm to it and preserve his sides lead.
Everything was coming from County in the second-half, Macclesfield sitting too deep and allowing the Exiles to get success down the wings, and the deserved equaliser finally came after 59 minutes.
O’Hara, after a previously impressing evening, completely misread a long-ball into his area and when Matt took it around him, Fitzpatrick had no option but to haul him to the ground.
Demetriou scored his penalty for the second successive game, firing emphatically into the same corner that Fitzpatrick put his spot kick and the power took it past O’Hara who went the right way.
O’Hara redeemed himself when emphatically denying Semenyo with 20 minutes remaining, but it was just one-way traffic from County trying to find a winner.
But a game can change in an instant and when Demetriou was adjudged to have used his hand when Macclesfield pumped in a corner-kick, the Silkmen had their second penalty of the night.
For the third time during the game, the spot kick was again struck with conviction and Fitzpatrick restored the lead for the visitors in spite of Day’s best efforts when guessing right.
Tyreeq Bakinson almost got the instant response but again O’Hara got his body behind the powerful attempt, while Tyrone Marsh fired wide at the other end as County began to commit bodies forward.
O’Hara was again stealing the headlines with another out of this world save to deny Bakinson in the fourth minute of additional time, while there was late drama as County saw a header bounce back off the crossbar onto the line, but it wasn’t given.
That only went to inspire County and they finally secured that decisive equaliser with the last kick – or head – of the game. Demetriou’s long ball into the area found Matt in space and the man of the hour continued his super goal scoring by snatching a point for County.
Newport County AFC (4-3-3): Day, Forbes, Demetriou (C), Franks, Butler, Bennett, Bakinson, Cooper (Harris 78’), Semenyo, Matt, Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Harris, Sheehan, Foulston, Pring
Macclesfield Town (4-2-3-1): O’Hara, Hodgkiss, Lowe, Kelleher, Fitzpatrick (C), Marsh (Pearson 94’), Arthur (Napa 78’), Maycock, Vincenti, Wilson (Smith 70’), Blissett
Subs not used: Taylor, Grimes, Welch-Hayes, Stevens
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 2,624 (52 AWAY)
Next up for County: Forest Green Rovers (6th October 2018) AWAY