Tristan Abrahams’ second half penalty ensured Newport County AFC continued their unbeaten record at Rodney Parade in League Two this season with a battling 1-1 draw against league leaders Exeter City.
Aaron Martin’s early finish from a corner kick put the free-flowing Grecians in command, but the half time introduction of Abrahams worked wonders for the Exiles, and he got the goal his performance deserved when dispatching the spot kick on 64 minutes.
Exeter remain top, County stay five points behind in 7th position.
Manager Michael Flynn elected to make two changes to the side which shared the ‘SaveOurShirt Unsponsored Trophy’ after a draw with Macclesfield Town on Tuesday night.
The Exiles set up with a three at the back formation for the first time since facing League One outfit Gillingham in the Carabao Cup, as Jamille Matt and Corey Whitely came in for Danny McNamara and Tristan Abrahams.
Tom King started in the goal behind the back three system of Mark O’Brien, Scot Bennett and Kyle Howkins. Ryan Haynes and Robbie Willmott played more in wing-back roles alongside midfielders Josh Sheehan, Whitely and captain Joss Labadie. Matt and Padraig Amond started up front.
Exeter City manager Matt Taylor also made two changes to his side which contained their storming start to the 2019/20 campaign with a comfortable victory over Port Vale.
Randell Williams – rested in midweek – and Martin came in to replace Jayden Richardson and Ben Seymour as the Grecians also implemented a 3-5-2 formation.
Two similar systems hinted towards a tight affair at Rodney Parade, but the opposite was true of the first half as both sides created a few opportunities, although Exeter were the only side to capitalise.
It was very evident to see why the Grecians came to Rodney Parade sitting at the summit of League Two, they were organised throughout the team and looked particularly threatening on the wings with Williams and Jack Sparkes causing numerous problems to the County back line.
Corner kicks were Exeter’s biggest avenue towards goal and inside 12 minutes, King was forced into his first moment of action when tipping over a powerful Pierce Sweeney header.
On 15 minutes, the Grecians made their early ascendency count. Again it was a Williams corner which caused problems, no County player took responsibility for clearing the ball when it flashed across the face of goal and Martin managed to tap home from all of two yards.
Back came County as they started to get a foothold in the game, but they couldn’t make the pressure tell as Matt fired straight at Lewis Ward after 21 minutes following an exquisite layoff from Amond.
The Exiles came mightily close to an equaliser after 40 minutes of enthralling action. Matt’s presence caused problems to the Grecians back line all afternoon, this time he laid off Whitely to strike from 20 yards, but Ward got down really well to tip it past the post.
Into the second half and County picked off where they ended the first by taking the game to their visitors, the half time introduction of Tristan Abrahams worked wonders when providing some extra pace and power going forward.
The influential attacker was off on his travels almost immediately when gliding past Williams with ease, he found Matt inside the area but the shot narrowly drifted wide.
Amid an onslaught of County attacks, Haynes did head a menacing free kick against his own crossbar but that was about it as the Exiles took control and found their equaliser on 64 minutes.
Grecians skipper Jake Taylor made a smart tackle on Matt inside the box, but he failed to get back up quickly enough and was forced to lunge a leg at the advancing Sheehan. He caught him, County had a penalty, and Abrahams did the rest by sending Ward the wrong way.
Unfortunately for the Exiles, that was the final opportunity of note despite a barrage of aerial deliveries into the Grecians penalty area, meaning both sides had ot settle for a point, which was perhaps a fair reflection of the contest as a whole.
Newport County AFC (3-5-2): Tom King, Mark O’Brien, Scot Bennett, Kyle Howkins, Robbie Willmott, Joss Labadie, Josh Sheehan, Ryan Haynes, Corey Whitely (Dominic Poleon 78’), Jamille Matt (Matty Dolan 74’), Padraig Amond (Tristan Abrahams 45’)
Subs not used: Townsend, McNamara, Nurse, Maloney
Exeter City (3-5-2): Lewis Ward, Dean Moxey, Tom Parkes, Pierce Sweeney, Jack Sparkes, Jake Taylor, Archie Collins, Randell Williams (Jayden Richardson 54’), Nicky Law (Aaron Martin 65’), Ryan Bowman, Lee Martin
Subs not used: Maxted, Woodman, Jay, Fisher, Seymour
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 4,762 (736 AWAY)
Next up for County: Swindon Town (28th September 2019) AWAY