Padraig Amond notched his tenth goal of the season to secure a point for Newport County AFC although they could so easily have won the game in a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient.
For the second time in succession, County conclude a calendar year with a point, Amond’s emphatic 81st minute equaliser cancelling out Ruel Sotiriou’s opener inside the first minute.
Manager Michael Flynn elected to make three changes to the side which suffered a disappointing defeat at second place Exeter City on Boxing Day.
Tom King, George Nurse and Tristan Abrahams all came into the side – Nick Townsend, Amond and Taylor Maloney moving to the bench – as County stuck to the 4-1-2-1-2 formation which showed signs of positivity a couple of days ago.
It wasn’t the easiest of starts for the Exiles as they fell behind after just 54 seconds. Supporters had barely taken their seats before Orient captain Josh Wright had swung in an early free-kick and Ruel Sotiriou lopped a header over King into the net.
It capped off what has been an incredible couple of weeks for the 19-year old. He moved on loan to Dover Athletic in November and dumped Southend United out of the Emirates FA Cup before returning to Orient. Sotiriou then scored on his Football League debut three days ago against Colchester United, before this goal on his first league start.
Orient were by far the quicker side out of traps and that continued for a little while, they really should have been 2-0 up inside four minutes before Lee Angol wasted a glorious opportunity when found unmarked inside the area.
County grew into proceedings as the game progressed but were thwarted in their tracks by a visiting defence who were insistent on pulling shirts and halting the game – fortunately referee Lee Swabey wasn’t afraid to go to his pocket and most of the back four were booked by half time.
Only some brilliant defending kept County out on 16 minutes. Danny McNamara burst to the by-line with great effect before cutting the ball right across the face of goal, George Nurse got on the end of it, but Marvin Ekpiteta threw himself in-front of the shot.
Josh Sheehan wasn’t too far away with a free kick which he tried to curl around the wall on 23 minutes, it was only about a yard away, as County continued to press after a slow start.
McNamara was getting a lot of joy against Dan Happe when skipping past the Orient left-back with relative ease, he played another crisp delivery along the face on 37 minutes but again the visitors got bodies behind the ball as Matt tried to force it home.
The second half was a backs to the wall operation for Orient who were desperate to hold onto their lead, again the yellow cards were a regular occurrence as County dominated possession.
On the scarce occasions they did venture forward, Orient actually looked quite good with Angol effective in holding up the ball, he forced a save from King on 70 minutes in their only opportunity.
A couple of times Orient were lucky to get the bounce of the ball inside their penalty area, instead of presenting itself to a County player it would fall behind allowing them to clear.
The trouble with sitting back too much is you’re always inviting the pressure, so it was going to tell eventually, and County found their desired equaliser on 81 minutes.
Flynn was bold with his substitutions, throwing on two attackers for two defenders, and it paid dividends as Amond was the one to get the equaliser for his tenth of the season.
Some of the deliveries into the Orient penalty area were right on the money throughout the game, this one from man of the match George Nurse was another peach for Scot Bennett to overhead kick a pass for Amond to volley home.
Only one side had the intention to win from there, but it just wasn’t to be for County as both sides had to settle for a point.
Labadie almost found the target on 88 minutes then again in stoppage time – no winner could be found but a much-improved performance from County who conclude the year with a point.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Tom King, Ryan Haynes (Padraig Amond 64’), Mickey Demetriou, Ryan Inniss (Dom Poleon 79’), Danny McNamara, Scot Bennett, Josh Sheehan, George Nurse, Joss Labadie (C), Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: Townsend, Dolan, Maloney, Jefferies
Leyton Orient (4-2-1-3): Sam Sargeant, Dan Happe, Marvin Ekpiteta, Jamie Turley, Myles Judd, Craig Clay, Josh Wright (C), George Marsh, Ruel Sotiriou (Matt Harrold 84’), Lee Angol, Jordan Maguire-Drew (James Brophy 71’)
Subs not used: Janata, Gorman, Coulson, Dayton, Kyprianou
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 4,437 (453 AWAY)
Next up for County: Cheltenham Town (January 1st) HOME