Newport County AFC brought an end to their disappointing record on opening day but were left to rue missed opportunities as they were held to a 2-2 draw against Mansfield Town.
The Exiles were 2-0 up at half time after a stunning start to the new campaign. Joss Labadie struck inside the opening six minutes, before Padraig Amond doubled the advantage with a penalty midway through the half.
But County allowed Mansfield to grow into proceedings as Krystian Pearce then Danny Rose both found the net inside the opening four minutes of the second half.
Tom King then repelled a penalty from Nicky Maynard just before the hour mark; but County couldn’t then take advantage when Jacob Mellis was dismissed with 22 minutes to play.
Mike Flynn elected to name nine of his 11 summer signings in the 18-man matchday squad at Rodney Parade while implementing the familiar 4-1-2-1-2 formation used in the pre-season friendlies.
Tom King, Ryan Haynes, Kyle Howkins and Danny McNamara were all handed debuts from the off, while Corey Whitely and Tristan Abrahams also made their first appearances off the bench.
Newly appointed captain of the Club Joss Labadie led the side out for the start of the contest, with their also starting spots for Robbie Willmott, Matty Dolan, Padraig Amond, Josh Sheehan, Jamille Matt and Mickey Demetriou.
Mansfield Town manager John Dempster – appointed to the role over the summer – named a strong squad from the start including several fresh faces but would have been mightily disappointed with the performance from his charges in the first half.
The Exiles completely dominated up until the half time whistle and had Mansfield rattled inside the opening six minutes with a lightning start to the new campaign.
Stags goalkeeper Conrad Logan will look upon reflection and think he could have done better than palm away a Robbie Willmott 25-yard drive. Instead, it went to Dolan and his dinked ball into the area was calmly slotted home by the onrushing Labadie.
Mansfield were well and truly shell-shocked into silence as County continued their barrage of attacking intent – Amond firing narrowly over the top after a clever corner-kick routine.
Dolan whacked the crossbar with a curling free kick in the 32nd minute but it was only a matter of time before the Exiles doubled their advantage and it came just 60 seconds later.
After being harshly denied a penalty minutes before, Ryan Sweeney’s pull on Matt was finally punished and Amond held his nerve to rifle the spot kick easily past Logan into his right side.
The Stags for whatever reason just couldn’t get going before the break and only had a header wide from Sweeney at a corner plus a speculative attempt from Jacob Mellis to talk about before the interval.
However, whoever was questioning Dempster in his first game in professional management, would have been eating their words as whatever he said at half time did the job as the Stags made a lightning start after the restart to bring themselves level.
A guided free kick into the area allowed Pearce to pull one back with a header in the 47th minute before they found their equaliser just two minutes later as a Danny Rose shot squirmed its way under King and into the back of the net.
That had County nervous as the ascendency looked to be changing but they responded well and almost retook the lead on 55 minutes when Logan pulled off an unbelievable save to tip a Labadie chipped effort over the crossbar.
It really had become an end-to-end affair at Rodney Parade and on 58 minutes, it was Mansfield’s turn to have a chance to take the lead.
Some excellent play in and around the area allowed Otis Khan to burst between Sheehan and Howkins and when the former went into a challenge on the wild side, the Stags had their penalty.
Any lingering doubts in King’s mind surrounding the second goal were swiftly put to bed as he leaped to his left and repelled Nicky Maynard’s powerful spot kick.
It was all happening in South Wales and a further twist to proceedings occurred in the 68th minute when referee James Adcock sought advice from one of his linesmen and dismissed Jacob Mellis for a lunge on Labadie.
But try as they might, County just couldn’t find a desired third and had to settle for a point in an enthralling start to the 2019/20 season.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Tom King, Ryan Haynes, Mickey Demetriou, Kyle Howkins, Danny McNamara (Tristan Abrahams 84’), Josh Sheehan, Joss Labadie (C), Matty Dolan (Corey Whitely 73’), Robbie Willmott, Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt
Subs not used: Stojsavljevic, Nurse, Bennett, Maloney, Townsend
Mansfield Town (3-5-2): Logan, Benning, Sweeney (Khan 54’), Pearce (C), Preston, Hamilton (Gordon 45+2’), Bishop, MacDonald, Mellis, Rose, Maynard (Cook 82’)
Subs not used: Stone, Donohue, Sterling-James, Smith
Referee: James Adcock
Attendance: 4,441 (493 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cambridge United (10th August 2019) AWAY