NEWPORT County AFC failed to take full advantage of the first of their three games in hand as they shared a goalless draw with play-off rivals Fleetwood Town.
County are now up to tenth in the League Two table, six points below seventh-placed Southend United and now with just two games in hand.
Both sides had the chances to take all three points but County battered the Cod Army in the second half and Rene Howe will have nightmares about his miss from a few yards, which was down to a big bobble on the terrible surface.
This was the fifth successive home match for the Exiles and the atmosphere could have been as flat as a pancake given the recent run of results.
But thanks to the club’s innovative £5 ticket offer Rodney Parade was buzzing throughout and the 3,700 fans were treated to an entertaining match with plenty of goalmouth action but no goals.
And that means that their side have taken just five points from 15 available in the five games at the ground previously known as Fortress Rodney Parade.
Exiles boss Justin Edinburgh opted to make just one change from Saturday’s last gasp 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe United with Tom Naylor coming in for Byron Anthony at the heart of the defence.
Ismail Yakubu took the captain’s armband from Anthony, who was rested, and the bench had a very attacking look to it with four strikers and no goalkeeper amongst the substitutes.
That positive mindset was evident in the early action as Saturday’s scorers Chris Zebroski and Lee Minshull both went close to netting again.
But the best chance of the first half fell to Fleetwood after 15 minutes when Jamille Matt, a big thorn in County’s side in the past, put Antoni Sarcevic through on goal.
But the midfielder buckled under the pressure as Exiles goalkeeper Elliott Parish rushed out and he skewed his shot wide.
That was a big let-off for the hosts and, though Naylor heading across goal at the other end, they were again fortunate not to concede three minutes before the break.
Sarcevic was again at the heart of the action but this time he got his shot on target only to be denied by a stunning Parish save, diving low to his left to scoop the ball away from goal.
Matt somehow blasted the rebound wide and County survived.
Robbie Willmott, looking to make a point against Fleetwood after his early red card in the 4-1 defeat at Highbury in November, almost created the opening goal two minutes after the restart.
Attacking at pace down the left flank his drilled cross was pushed out by Chris Maxwell in the Fleetwood goal and just evaded the on-rushing Howe, while Burge couldn’t connect properly either and the chance was gone.
After a quiet 15 minutes Edinburgh’s men picked up the slack with Burge testing Maxwell with a 25-yard thunderbolt.
Howe then missed a chance every bit as good as Sarcevic’s in the first half when Zebroski found him in the middle, although he could quite rightly blame the pitch.
The former Burton Albion striker missed the target after the ball hit a divot and flew off his shin and over the bar.
The introduction of Mike Flynn from the bench was met by a big cheer from the crowd and he made a positive impact as County stepped up the pressure.
Willmott saw a fierce free-kick tipped over by Maxwell and that led to a succession of corners but the hosts couldn’t force the ball in.
County: Parish, Willmott, Sandell, Yakubu (Hughes, 77), Naylor, Jackson, Porter (Flynn, 64), Minshull, Burge, Howe, Zebroski
Subs not used: Chapman, Crow, Jeffers, Jolley, Holloway
Fleetwood: Maxwell, Murdoch, Roberts, Pond, Evans, Schumacher, Matt, Goodall, McLaughlin, Sercevic, Taylor
Subs not used: Davies, Parkin, Hughes, Morris, Jordan, Mandron, Marrow
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Argus star man: Burge