Newport County AFC maintained their unbeaten start to the 2019/20 campaign with a solid 0-0 draw at Walsall FC.
In a game where chances came at a premium, Jamille Matt came close on a couple of occasions but the Exiles were left frustrated in their attacking intentions away from home but nevertheless, an important point on the road.
After setting the clubs longest ever unbeaten run in the Football League with a spirited victory over Plymouth Argyle on Saturday, manager Michael Flynn made two changes to the starting side which were enforced by injury.
Saturday’s matchwinner Kyle Howkins and Tristan Abrahams – another who impressed against the Pilgrims – came in to replace the unavailable Scot Bennett (quad) and Mickey Demetriou (leg).
That meant it was the usual 4-1-2-1-2 formation for the Exiles with Tom King behind a back four of Danny McNamara, Mark O’Brien, Howkins and Ryan Haynes.
The midfield diamond of Josh Sheehan, captain Joss Labadie, Robbie Willmott and Padraig Amond was an interesting proposition as they switched roles on numerous occasions to give Walsall something to think about, although Amond was for the majority between the strikers of Abrahams and Jamille Matt.
Walsall manager Darrell Clarke made three changes to his Saddlers side which continued their indifferent start to the 2019/20 campaign with defeat at Crewe Alexandra on Saturday as the home side lined up in more of a 3-5-2 system.
As it has been for the last two league outings, the Exiles were again drawn into a battle at Banks’s Stadium as both sides appeared to cancel each other out before half time in a ferocious but tight opening 45 minutes.
O’Brien’s performance in particular stood out from a County perspective as he was the man to break down numerous Walsall attacks, he looked full of energy and was putting himself about with powerful tackles in and around the penalty area.
Walsall should have done better with the contest’s opening goal on 10 minutes. Caolan Lavery superbly took down Elijah Adebayo’s lay-off, but he hit a shot straight at King when finding either corner would probably have resulted in a goal.
County took a little bit of time to get themselves at a stadium they were playing at for the first time, Sheehan threaded the eye of the needle to split the home defence and find Matt, the shot too tepid as it tricked into Liam Roberts’ gloves.
Back came the home side but no firther shots on target could be produced before half time, Saddlers midfielder James Hardy did well to skip a challenge but curled wide from 20 yards, before Cameron Norman also had King scrambling but no danger in the end.
Into the second half and that was again an uninspiring 45 minutes as both sides again nullified the other and chances came at a high premium.
Saddlers defender Dan Scarr should have done better then power a free header well over the top just three minutes after the restart, while Stuart Sinclair worked himself some space inside the area with some neat trickery but drilled a shot past the far post.
For County, Matt was the biggest threat in the second half with his general hold up play and presence from set pieces – he poked a shot wide with twenty minutes remaining then sent a header over the top minutes later after a clever flick-on from Howkins at a throw-in.
That was about it unfortunately as neither side could break the other down, a point on the road is always a good and the unbeaten start to the campaign continues.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Tom King, Danny McNamara, Mark O’Brien, Kyle Howkins, Ryan Haynes, Josh Sheehan, Robbie Willmott, Joss Labadie, Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: Townsend, Leadbitter, Nurse, Whitely, Collins, Ekpiteta
Walsall FC (3-5-2): Liam Roberts, James Clarke (C), Dan Scarr, Mat Sadler, Cameron Norman, Stuart Sinclair, Liam Kinsella, James Hardy (Jack Kiersey 86’), Cameron Pring, Caolan Lavery (Josh Gordon 61’), Elijah Adebayo
Subs not used: Rose, Cockerill-Mottrell, McDonald, Liddle, Jules
Referee: Darren Handley
Attendance: 4,337 (AWAY: TBC)
Next up for County: Crewe Alexandra (24th August 2019) HOME