Mansfield a

Newport County AFC were narrowly edged out by Mansfield Town in a thrilling encounter at the One Call Stadium in Sky Bet League Two.

In an action-packed game it took just six minutes for the Stags to open the scoring thanks to a long-range strike from George Maris.

Robbie Willmott levelled the score minutes later but Mansfield captain Ollie Clarke sealed the victory with an emphatic effort on the stroke of half time.

County more than matched their opponents in an end-to-end game that neither side deserved to lose but Mansfield managed to deal with the County threat in the second half to claim all three points.

Newport had a number of key players missing with club captain Matty Dolan, Mickey Demetriou, Jermaine Hylton and Kevin Ellison, who scored the winner in the opening day victory over Oldham Athletic, all unavailable.

However, the Exiles still managed to make seven changes from the midweek Carabao Cup victory over Ipswich Town with Christopher Missilou, Timmy Abraham, Finn Azaz and James Clarke the only players to keep their place.

It was an entertaining start with both sides showing their threat from the off. Stephen McLaughlin found space inside 15 seconds to whip in a cross and test the County defence while loanee Abraham was more than willing to run the lines and forced his way into the box to create a half chance that he couldn’t quite connect with.

There was nothing conservative about the way the two teams started and it was no surprise that the deadlock was broken on six minutes. Maris stole the ball from Missilou and aimed a shot into the bottom corner that Joe Day will have been disappointed to let slip past him.

But the goalkeeper made up for it minutes later when his raking goal kick caused confusion in the Mansfield area and allowed Willmott to steal in and loft the ball over Nathan Bishop, who is on loan from Manchester United, to grab a quick equaliser.

A clever free-kick routine then almost saw the Exiles take the lead. Willmott caught the Mansfield defence cold with a low pass to Ed Upson on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s effort was deflected wide.

Mansfield countered from the resulting corner and only a fine point-blank save from Day denied Maris a second of the afternoon.

Ryan Haynes was proving to be a problem for Mansfield at both ends of the pitch and after testing Bishop with a fierce free kick the wing back was played into space in the box by Azaz and drilled a low ball across the box and just wide of the goal, with Abraham looking to pounce.

With the clock ticking down to half time, the Stags retook the lead when Clarke was sent through on goal by Danny Johnson and the skipper made no mistake.

The visitors made a bright start to the second half, particularly finding space on the flanks, and a floated cross from Cameron Norman met the head of Abraham but the striker was narrowly off target.

The Stags had no answer for the 20-year-old’s energy and pace as he continued to stride in to the box, this time his ball across goal was knocked into the path of Azaz, by Haynes, and the midfielder forced Bishop into a fine save.

The end-to-end nature of the game continued and a flowing Mansfield move presented Oliver Hawkins with the chance to add to the tally but the forward blazed over when well placed.

With Michael Flynn sensing an equaliser, he changed his attack around with debutant Alex Fisher, whose signing was only announced before kick-off, and Jordan Greenidge replacing Missilou and Abraham.

The Exiles remained patient as they started to increase the pressure on the Mansfield box, although the hosts stood firm.

Lewis Collins was then introduced for the final 13 minutes as County changed things up with Clarke making way but the Exiles couldn’t find the all-important equaliser.


Newport County AFC: Joe Day; Priestley Farquharson, Scot Bennett (C), James Clarke (Lewis Collins 78); Cameron Norman, Christopher Missilou (Alex Fisher 66), Ed Upson, Ryan Haynes; Robbie Willmott, Finn Azaz; Timmy Abraham (Jordan Greenidge 72).

Subs: Nick Townsend, Joe Woodiwiss, Aaron Lewis, Aneurin Livermore.

Attendance: 3793 (156 County).