Dom Telford came off the bench to salvage a point for Newport County AFC in an entertaining draw with Leyton Orient at Rodney Parade.
It is always an emotionally charged occasion when County meet Leyton Orient due to both clubs’ strong links to the late great Justin Edinburgh and this was no exception with home and away supporters honouring him with applause in the 49th minute.
The score was level at that point after Matty Dolan had equalised with a spot-kick after Harry Smith’s header has given the O’s the lead.
Smith was at it again after the break with another towering header but substitute Telford was in the right place at the right time to help rescue a point with his second goal of the week.
There were four changes for the Exiles from last weekend’s defeat to Salford City. Captain Dolan and Mickey Demetriou returned to the defence while Timmy Abraham came in to support Alex Fisher in attack. The final change saw Oliver Cooper handed his first league start following his loan move from Swansea City on transfer deadline day.
Fellow deadline day loan arrival Jake Cain was named on the bench alongside academy midfielder Aneurin Livermore, who has impressed in his two senior appearances this season. Manager Michael Flynn was also back in the dugout following his coronavirus isolation.
Joe Day showed his amazing reflexes with a stunning double save after a quick throw-in caught the hosts out. Darren Pratley played in Aaron Drinan but Day beat his close-range shot away and got up quickly to deny him again on the rebound.
It was a glorious showreel from the shot-stopper as he kept out a fierce Theo Archibald free kick, which looked destined for the corner, after parrying a Craig Clay volley.
Not to be outdone, his Orient counterpart Lawrence Vigouroux had to get down quick to keep out Dolan following a clever corner routine.
Cooper almost marked his League Two debut with a superb solo strike but he couldn’t generate enough power to worry Vigouroux after a storming run from the midfielder saw him accelerate past Shadrach Ogie.
Both sides were looking dangerous in open play but it was a set piece that broke the deadlock. Smith rose highest to nod home Archibald’s corner and give the visitors the lead.
County ended the half strong with the ball behind Connor Wood opening the door for Robbie Willmott on a couple of occasions. He picked out Fisher twice and the striker flashed a header wide before setting up Ryan Haynes, who also struck wide of the post.
But with the seconds ticking down until half time, Abraham was fouled in the box and Dolan dispatched from the spot to level proceedings with the last kick of the first half.
The stadium erupted with applause shortly after the restart in memory of Edinburgh but it was the away supporters making noise in the 53rd minute as Smith, once again, leapt high to power Pratley’s cross past Day.
Priestley Farquharson and Telford were introduced on the hour mark replacing Dolan and Abraham respectively as County looked for a way back into the game. Youngster Livermore then entered the action on 74 minutes to make his league debut, and he didn’t look out of place.
The Exiles started to dictate play as the game entered the final stages and their pressure finally told 10 minutes from time when Demetriou flicked on a throw-in and Telford was in the right place to prod home.
A long ball from Demetriou almost played in Cooper in the final minutes but the midfielder couldn’t get a shot away and County had to settle for a point.
Newport County AFC: Joe Day; Scot Bennett (Aneurin Livermore 74), Matty Dolan © (Priestley Farquharson 61), Mickey Demetriou; Cameron Norman, Robbie Willmott, Ed Upson, Oliver Cooper, Ryan Haynes; Timmy Abraham (Dom Telford 61), Alex Fisher.
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, James Clarke, Aaron Lewis, Jake Cain.
Attendance: 3,845 (Leyton Orient 396).