Newport County AFC maintained their unbeaten home league start to the 2019/20 campaign by battling back for a point in the pulsating 1-1 draw against Crawley Town.
It was an evening of penalties at Rodney Parade as Tristan Abrahams’ second half spot-kick cancelled out Ashley Nathaniel-George’s attempt from the opening 45 minutes.
The Exiles came so close to a winner in stoppage time but Crawley managed to withstand an effort hitting the post and another being hooked off the goal line as the two sides settled for a point apiece.
Michael Flynn elected to name the same starting eleven which battled to a nail-biting victory over Scunthorpe United at Rodney Parade three days ago.
The only alteration came amongst the substitutes as Kyle Howkins missed out through illness to be replaced by Charlton Athletic loanee Taylor Maloney.
Crawley Town manager Gabriele Cioffi made two changes to his side which were edged out at Bradford City on the weekend but stuck with the 4-4-2 formation usually implemented.
Nathaniel-George and David Sesay were restored from the off in place of Lewis Young and Panutche Camara respectively.
The first half certainly failed to inspire at Rodney Parade as neither side particularly maintained a sustained amount of pressure, Crawley’s Bez Lubala was head and shoulders above everyone else when marauding forward from the left wing but he couldn’t hit the target with two stinging drives.
Former Exile Reece Grego-Cox looked a completely different player from the one that was on loan at County a couple of seasons ago, he also looked a livewire in attack, but he could only flash a shot wide on 11 minutes.
Crawley were implementing a high pressing game right from the off which inhibited County’s ability to put a succession of passes together, Josh Sheehan did manage a shot early on but that was palmed away by Glenn Morris.
On 36 minutes, Crawley took the lead from the penalty spot at a time when neither side particularly looked like breaking the deadlock.
Danny McNamara was harshly adjudged to have handled Lubala’s powerful delivery and Nathaniel-George successfully converted it by again going to his favoured right-hand side from the penalty spot.
That was about it from the opening 45 minutes but County looked a much livelier outfit after the restart after Flynn decided to make two changes – George Nurse and Corey Whitely replacing Jamille Matt and McNamara.
Morris made an outstanding save on the hour to thwart Labadie’s powerful header and made another smart stop five minutes later to deny the same player.
If Crawley’s penalty was soft, then the shoe was on the other foot with 16 minutes remaining as Darren Drysdale again pointed to the spot after Josh Sheehan took a tumble inside the area under the pressure of two visiting players.
Talk about an impact substitute but Flynn threw Tristan Abrahams on with the main intention to take the spot-kick and he duly obliged by sending Morris the wrong way and right into the corner.
Crawley were rattled by the equaliser leaving County to launch more and more attacks forward, Scot Bennett came mightily close with eight minutes to go but Morris made a last gasp save.
In stoppage time, County couldn’t have come much closer to a dramatic winner from a corner-kick. Abrahams hit the post, the rebound fell to Robbie Willmott but he saw his shot saved then amid the ensuing melee Abrahams again nipped through an effort but it was cleared on the line.
Another dramatic end to a Rodney Parade fixture but unfortunately no winner this time as County had to settle for a point.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-3): Tom King, Danny McNamara, Ryan Inniss, Mark O’Brien, Ryan Haynes, Scot Bennett, Joss Labadie (C) (Tristan Abrahams 73’), Josh Sheehan, Robbie Willmott, Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt (Corey Whitely 45’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Dolan, Maloney, Poleon
Crawley Town FC (4-4-2): Glenn Morris, Josh Doherty, Tom Dallison (C), Jordan Tunnicliffe, David Sesay, Bez Lubala, Tarryn Allarakhia, Nathan Ferguson, Ashley Nathaniel-George (Camara 78’), Reece Grego-Cox (Ashley Nadesan 86’), Mason Bloomfield
Subs not used: Luyambula, Young, Van Velzen, Sendles-White, Galach
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 3,119 (83 AWAY)
Next up for County: Colchester United (26th October 2019) AWAY