Report: Newport 1 Exeter City 1
Exeter City earned a creditable draw from their trip to South Wales as their trip to Newport County AFC ended 1-1.
City had gone ahead shortly after the interval when Exiles defender Harry Worley turned Tom Nichols’ cross into his own net, but Lee Minshull forced the ball over the line from a corner just a minute later.
And ultimately a toughly-contested battle ended honours-even as all other chances went begging before the referee sounded the final whistle.
Manager Paul Tisdale made three City changes for the visit to Rodney Parade – Sam Parkin, David Wheeler and Matt Grimes all began on the bench with Danny Butterfield, Matt Gill and Eliot Richards all given the nod.
There were also a couple of well-known names in the Newport side – former Torquay, Plymouth and Bristol Rovers striker Chris Zebroski was named in attack, and former Gulls man Rene Howe began on the bench.
A high-tempo start saw chances at either end – Ryan Burge’s shot was charged down in the first minute as he looked to break free, before a good bit of skill by Liam Sercombe saw him find space to cross and Newport were lucky to survive after Ian McLoughlin spilled his catch.
The first half was contested in something of an ugly nature, with both teams contesting the battle full-bloodedly and occasionally crossing that thin line into unsportsmanlike behaviour. But there were chances for either side – Zebroski dragged a chance just wide of Krysiak’s goal and Sercombe’s shot, hit on the volley, needed blocking by Andrew Hughes.
City were also lively on the counter, particularly through the pace of Richards, Sercombe and Tom Nichols. Matt Oakley found Nichols with a neat outside-of-the-boot ball and Nichols backheeled into Sercombe’s path, but the midfielder just overran with his first touch.
Richards also went on a solo foray down the left and had Ismail Yakubu turning inside and out with City breaking in numbers – however McLoughlin got down well to the powerful effort.
Half-time: Newport County AFC 0 Exeter City 0
City came out quickly and were first to pull the trigger after the break after Craig Woodman worked space to shoot, only for Yakubu to make a vital block.
Exeter were first to find the net though and it came with a touch of fortune about it. There was nothing lucky about the way Nichols controlled the ball and went past his man at the right-hand byline, and his fizzed cross diverted into the net by Worley.
But the lead lasted barely a minute as Minshull was the man to bundle the ball over the line after Robbie Willmott’s corner kick wasn’t cleared at the first time of asking.
The game suddenly began to open up even more as Worley came close to making amends for his own-goal gaffe but Artur Krysiak saved well at full-stretch from the defender’s header.
At the other end McLoughlin twice had to be alert to stinging efforts from Richards and then Nichols – the first chance came as Sercombe linked up well with Richards before the Welshman thrashed a ball goalwards, and the second came as Nichols spun and shot left-footed with venom. Both times the stopper was well-placed to gather.
John O’Flynn was introduced with 20 minutes to play and not long after an effort of his was deflected a matter of inches wide of the post after a neat ball by Sercombe released the striker.
The Irish forward was proving a real handful for the Exiles’ defence after coming on and twice put in good crosses for Bennett to head at goal, only for the goalkeeper to foil the midfield man. Soon after Richards hung up a good left-footed cross for Bennett, who nodded wide under pressure from Hughes.
City kept pressing until the last and were aided by some rock-like defending by Jordan Moore-Taylor in particular, who showed strength and determination and a knack of being in the right place at the right time.
And ultimately it ended all-square, with the two goals in as many minutes early in the second half putting the scores at 1-1.
Full-time: Newport County AFC 1 Exeter City 1
Newport County AFC: McLoughlin; Pipe, Yakubu (Holloway 54), Worley, Hughes; Minshull, Porter, Willmott; Burge (Flynn 75), Zebroski, Crow (Jolley 70).
Subs: Chapman, Jeffers, Jackson, Howe.
Goal: Minshull (52).
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley, Bennett, Gill, Richards; Nichols (O’Flynn 71).
Subs: Pym, Baldwin, Davies, Parkin, Grimes, Wheeler.
Goal: Worley o.g. (51).
Referee: C. Boyeson