Manager Michael Flynn says all the pressure is now on Mansfield Town this Sunday after the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade in the first leg of the League Two play-off semi-final.
The Exiles made it 11 matches unbeaten thanks to their second-half comeback which was required after falling behind inside 12 minutes.
County tried to play a short throw-in but Mansfield intercepted and broke away with frightening pace, influential midfielder Jacob Mellis playing in CJ Hamilton on the left flank who rifled into the roof of the net for the opening goal.
Mansfield were by far and above the better side in the first half in terms of creativity and flair, with Hamilton looking particularly menacing on the wing and Mellis trying to orchestrate the play from the central attacking midfield role.
County had their moments before half-time too and almost equalised on 33 minutes. Mickey Demetriou flicked-on a free-kick to Jamille Matt, only for Conrad Logan to save with his foot then tip it over in the same motion.
The second half was when County really started to take over the ascendency of proceedings and Logan again had to make a stunning save to thwart Padraig Amond within five minutes of the restart.
Robbie Willmott was harshly adjudged to be offside when tapping home the rebound to another smart save from Logan, before the Exiles finally broke the Stags shot stopper’s resistance with seven minutes to play.
Such was Logan’s night in-front of goal that he actually saved Amond’s penalty-kick, but fortunately the ball came straight back to the Irishman who calmly slotted home to level the scoring.
That means the tie is perfectly positioned ahead of the second leg in Nottinghamshire on Sunday and Flynn knows it’s still all to play for.
“All the pressure is on them,” he affirmed.
“We finished the game the strongest and we’ll have to pick a team who I think can cause them problems.
“In an ideal world, we wanted to be taking a lead to Mansfield. But, it’s another 90 minutes of football and we’re going to give it our best shot.
“When Newport last got promoted through the play-offs, they won at Mansfield on the first day of the season. Now we’re going to have to win there on the last game.”
It could perhaps be described as the cliché of a game of two halves at Rodney Parade where both sides scored in the period of the game they dominated.
Flynn continued: “For whatever reason, we just couldn’t get into the game and everything that came for them came from our own errors, even their goal.
“The speed in which they broke was quicker than ours and it was a great finish to be honest.
“It was a slow start from us, they were the better team for the first 25 minutes of the first half and won every first ball, every second ball.
“They started brighter than us, but we got back into the game in the last 20 minutes of the first half.
“Second half, we were by far the better team. In the second half, I thought there was only one team who was going to score.
“There was one error from Mickey where he got too tight to Tyler Walker and got rolled. Joe Day stood up well and pushed him out wide.
“That’s all I can think of them having. We had five or six good opportunities where on a different day, they could have all gone into the back of the net.
“On the whole, I thought we were slightly the better team and 2-1 to us wouldn’t have been so far out there.
“My players were fantastic, like I knew they would be.
“It’s 11 games unbeaten for us now – I’m not sure how far that is from a club record, but it must be up there in terms of the Football League.”
SECOND LEG | The tie is finely poised, but the squad need YOUR support to help them over the line. Join us in Mansfield and get your tickets now.