Jamille Matt struck a dramatic stoppage time equaliser as Newport County AFC secured themselves a point in a 1-1 draw with Stevenage at Rodney Parade.
Emmanuel Sonupe gave Stevenage a deserved lead early in the first half but just when it looked like another defeat, Matt powered home his third of the season to halt the losing run.
Despite numerous injury concerns and even a breakout of mumps in the squad during the week, manager Michael Flynn only made two changes to the side from last weekend and just one of those alterations was enforced.
There was a welcome return for Mickey Demetriou after a four month lay-off following a fibula break and damage to the syndesmosis joint, Jamille Matt also came back in for Tristan Abrahams – who went to the bench – and Ryan Inniss who had mumps.
It wasn’t exactly the best of spectacles in the first half at Rodney Parade but the difference between the two sides was unfortunately the fact Stevenage managed to take their main moment of note and County couldn’t.
The only goal of the half came with the first attack on 12 minutes. Josh Sheehan dithered on the ball too long in front of his back four and lost possession, Emmanuel Sonupe nipped in and calmly slotted past a helpless Nick Townsend from just inside the penalty area.
County were guilty of a couple of lapses in concentration throughout the half, but they went otherwise unpunished, Kurtis Guthrie sent Townsend scrambling with a snapshot after 39 minutes, but the goalkeeper did well just to edge it past his post.
The Exiles looked quite menacing going forward, but Stevenage had kept four clean sheets coming into it and they embodied that defensive resilience in the first half to limit County’s attacking intent.
County were best just after conceding the goal, they had that little more urgency to advance forward and Padraig Amond forced a smart save from Paul Farman with a bullet header on the 15-minute mark.
Some lovely interchange between Taylor Maloney and Jamille Matt got County in down the left, the midfielder burst clear but miscued the attempt under some good pressure from Scott Cuthbert – who was magnificent all afternoon.
The only other first half opening came on 42 minutes, but the offside flag would have ruled anything out if it had transpired that way. Matt nodded down for Amond, but Farman repelled it with his shoulder, however it wouldn’t have counted.
County upped the ante throughout the whole of the second half but didn’t actually create too much in terms of clear-cut opportunities until the dramatic late equaliser.
Stevenage captain Cuthbert again led from the front, by far and above the best player on that Rodney Parade pitch, and he marshalled his troops heroically and will feel aggrieved at not securing all three points.
The introduction of Lewis Collins in the latter stages of the game swung the momentum back in County’s favour because Stevenage looked so comfortable with and without possession until that point.
He made two marauding runs right away which showed his intent, the first set up a Sheehan shot which was palmed away by Farman and the next created another opening which wasn’t converted.
You felt almost disappointed for Collins that he wasn’t involved in the stoppage time equaliser because he deserved an accolade like that for his contributions after the substitution.
Instead it was Nurse to swing the ball in for Matt to head home a priceless equaliser and get County back picking up results in League Two.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Nick Townsend, Ryan Haynes, Mickey Demetriou, Mark O’Brien (C) (Scot Bennett 45’), Danny McNamara (Lewis Collins 79’), Matty Dolan (Tristan Abrahams 45’), George Nurse, Taylor Maloney, Josh Sheehan, Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt
Subs not used: King, Poleon, Jefferies, Woodiwiss
Stevenage FC (3-4-1-2): Paul Farman, Ben Nugent, Scott Cuthbert (C), Paul Digby, Tyler Denton, Charlie Lakin, Charlie Carter, Terence Vancooten, Emmanuel Sonupe (Craig Mackail-Smith 86’), Elliott List (Michael Timlin 76’), Kurtis Guthrie
Subs not used: Bastien, Soares, Cowley, Kennedy, Parrett
Referee: Sebastien Stockbridge
Attendance: 3,556 (88 AWAY)
Next up for County: Morecambe (21st November) AWAY