Exeter City and Newport County AFC played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Rodney Parade.
In truth it could have been better for the Grecians, who were two goals to the good at the interval through a Tom Nichols
penalty and a corking effort by Graham Cummins
However the hosts came steaming out of the blocks in the second period and got back on terms through Yan Klukowski and Max Porter.
Both sides had chances for a winner, but neither could quite take them as a draw was the result in South Wales.
Manager Paul Tisdale made just a single change to his starting XI for the Sunday afternoon fixture. Striker Tom Nichols
was recalled into the starting line-up, with David Wheeler
on the bench.
missed out with a slight injury, meaning a place amongst the subs for Ollie Watkins
. Former Grecian Lenny Pidgeley was Newport’s sub ‘keeper for the afternoon.
Home striker Aaron O’Connor was the first to have on goal as the ball fell to him on the left, but he curled an effort well over from close range. At the other end, Liam Sercombe
opted to shoot from 30 yards but his rifled effort deflected through bodies and ended up in the grasp on goalkeeper Joe Day.
A coming together between Andrew Hughes and Graham Cummins
– after the City striker had been fouled near the touchline – saw referee Scott Mathieson take the lenient view and let both off with a ticking off.
Chris Zebroski cut in off the left with a swift counter, and it needed a strong paw from stopper Christy Pym
to deny the game’s opening goal.
Cummins was denied a penalty appeal as he was hauled down in the area as he looked to get on a back-spinning lofted pass, but the referee waved away the claims.
But he reached for his whistle just minutes later, as Nichols – receiving on the break from Sercombe – worked his way into the box and drew a clumsy foul from Newport defender Darren Jones. It was Nichols that elected to take the spot kick, and he drilled it central to open a lead for Exeter.
Newport began to come back into the game and fashion chances of their own – after what appeared to be a foul on Matt Grimes
went unpunished, Newport broke down the left and forward rattled the crossbar with a dipping effort from out wide.
Curtis Obeng wanted a penalty of his own as he crumpled under the attention of Christian Ribeiro
, but the referee showed little interest.
At the other end Ribeiro was overlapping well – he took control of the ball just outside the area, swung in a low cross, and just hooked his effort over on the stretch.
However Cummins soon had his goal as City turned defence into attack in lightning speed. Goalkeeper Christy Pym
picked out Sercombe, whose smart chest found Grimes – in turn the midfielder spun a ball out to the left for Cummins. The striker cut in off the flank and picked out the top corner on the far side, and instantly peeled away to celebrate with the travelling City fans.
Newport had a half-chance to claw one back before the break, but Lee Minshull dragged his short wide from 30 yards.
Half-time: Newport County AFC 0 Exeter City 2
But despite City’s dominance in the first period, Newport were level with barely five minutes of the second period.
The first came in rather agricultural fashion, as Ryan Jackson’s long throw from the right was somehow bundled in at the near post by Yan Klukowski.
And with their tails up, Newport came again and attacked swiftly in numbers, and a ball across for Porter allowed the midfielder to strike hard and low, nestling the ball into the bottom corner.
The turnaround might have been completed when Ismail Yakubu, up to attack a set-piece, forced a smart low save from goalkeeper Pym when the home fans thought he was beaten.
David Noble had a chance to put the Grecians back ahead as he received down the left, but forced a great save from goalie Joe Day.
Klukowski had a golden chance for his second when good hold-up play from Zebroski allowed him to lay the ball into the midfielder’s path, but he struck into the arms of the grateful Pym.
And Grimes was the post’s width away from getting Exeter back in front after Noble was felled just outside the box – he curled a free-kick up and down, but against the upright.
Keohane was next to try his luck, as the run of Grimes opened space for him to line up a shot, but Day smothered the low effort well.
As the game ticked into the final five minutes, Ribeiro burst into the area after receiving from Grimes and appeared to be chopped to the ground, but penalty shouts fell on deaf ears.
And full-back Ribeiro then cut inside and hung up a cross with his left for Cummins to head at the back stick, but he couldn’t sneak his effort past Day at his near post, as an entertaining game closed in a draw.
Full-time: Newport County AFC 2 Exeter City 2
Newport County AFC: Day; Jones (Pigott 77), Yakubu, Hughes; Jackson, Minshull (Chapman 46), Porter, Klukowski, Obeng; O’Connor (Loveridge 90), Zebroski.
Subs: Pidgeley, Feely, Tancock, Patten.
Goals: Klukowski (49), Porter (51).
Exeter City: Pym; Ribeiro, Butterfield, Oakley, Woodman; Sercombe, Noble (Wheeler 77), Bennett (Keohane 53), Grimes; Nichols, Cummins.
Subs: Hamon, Riley-Lowe, Tillson, Jay, Watkins.
Goals: Nichols (pen 22), Cummins (40).
Referee: Scott Mathieson