United travelled to South Wales on a cold wet Saturday afternoon to face high flying Newport County with manager Garry Haylock having to hand a debut to third string keeper Adam Thomson after both Delroy and Kevin were ruled unfit to play.
The early stages of the contest saw large amounts of possession with the Exiles however it was United who actually came closest to an early breakthrough on two separate occasions. Just two minutes had been played when Steve Perkins met a Will Hendry corner but fired over and before ten minutes arrived on the clock a sliced clearance from Nathan Davies set up an overhead chance for Staforde Palmer but he was wide of the upright.
United then had a lengthy spell where the home side caused several problems only to be kept at bay by a combination of stubborn defending and poor finishing. Debutant Thomson came from goal to clear as Charlie Griffin was played through and when the ball ricocheted off the striker United were grateful that it fell to Peter Collins who cleared the danger. Davies received from Griffin and just cleared Thomson's crossbar with a chipped effort before the young United keeper did well to hold a low drive from Richard Evans.
Five minutes later Thomson was again safe as he fielded a 20 yard Griffin shot after a neat lay off from strike partner Craig Hughes. With more than 15 minutes of the half remaining this was the last real action as both sets of players trooped off with the scoresheet blank.
The second period was to see a far more open game as both sets of players had obviously been spurred on by half time talks from the respective managers. County were the first to create an opening when a long punt upfield fell nicely to Hughes but with just Thomson ahead of him he screwed his effort across goal and wide of the target. United's response was immediate, a long Perkins throw found Palmer who neatly controlled the ball and turned goalwards but under pressure was just wide of the Exiles goal.
Chances continued to move from end to end, Steve Jenkins found space on the right and found Hughes with a near post cross but the strikers headed effort was marginally wide of the upright. United's Peter Collins then fired over from a Hendry corner and two minutes later Liam Collins played an excellent ball wide left to James Mulley who in turn fed a square pass to Palmer and the United top scorer placed the ball past the dive of Thompson to give United a precious lead.
With half an hour remaining both United players and hardy supporters alike knew it was going to be like the alamo at the back. Almost immediately the home side should have restored parity when Jason Bowen cut the ball back to Griffin but he fired high and wide with the United goal gaping. Minutes later a Damon Searle cross was half punched clear by Thomson but luckily it fell to the out of sorts Griffin who once more failed to hit the target.
Ten minutes after taking the lead, it was United's stubbornness at the back that prevented an equaliser. A corner was played into the centre of the area and met forcefully by Ian Hillier, Thomson did well to block away the effort from his line and the follow up shot from eight yards by Evans was played wide by skipper Nevin Saroya.
By the time United next tested Thompson in the home goal, a 20 yard Kieran Knight effort that was comfortably held, the home side had thrown on the heavyweights in the shape of strikers Jermaine Clarke and Julian Alsop. The changes gave the home side the height and power up front that finally broke the resolute United defence. Clarke received a throw and turned past Saroya only to be denied by a sharp save from Thomson but sadly just two minutes later the young stopper was finally beaten when Clarke rose highest to meet a Hillier cross and beat the keeper into the top corner of the United net.
With both defence's repelling attacks it took ten further minutes before a close shave and surprisingly it was the visitors who created it. Danny Allen-Page found space on the right and threaded the ball to Knight who burst into the area and fired a low cross at the near post which Josh Scott and a defender reached at the same time and the ball went inches wide of the post.
Six minutes of stoppage time saw the visitors goal somewhat peppered as County sought a winner. Thomson did well to turn an Evans drive around the post and the home side thought they had the winner three minutes in when a powerful Alsop header hit the back of the United net only to be denied by a whistle from referee Mr Bull who had already awarded a free-kick for a shove in the back prior to Alsop's connection.
The final minute of the six saw yet another close shave when Allen-Page was well positioned to head an effort away from his own goal line and the final whistle finally sounded with United earning a well deserved point.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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