VIDEO: Newport County 1 Exeter City 1
THIS was billed as a massive game for both clubs at the wrong end of League Two – an archetypal six-pointer – and a draw was not much good for either side.
It could have been worse for Justin Edinburgh’s men as they fell behind to the struggling Grecians on 51 minutes when Harry Worley headed into his own net.
But Lee Minshull’s scrappy equaliser a minute later edged them another point nearer to safety in the first season back in League Two.
And after defeats at Mansfield and Morecambe it stopped the rot and gave the Exiles something to build on as their relentless fixture schedule stretches out in front of them.
The draw leaves them squarely in the middle of the table, seven points off the top-seven with two games in hand but also seven points off the bottom two with a game in hand.
As the manager hinted in the build-up to this game, however, County are realistically concentrating more on results at the bottom of the table following a run that is now stretched to one win in 14 games.
Edinburgh made four changes from the side that was beaten 4-1 at Morecambe.
Tom Naylor was suspended but the return of Ismail Yakubu from injury cushioned that blow.
And alongside the Yak there were recalls for captain David Pipe and striker Danny Crow, while midfield maestro Ryan Burge was back from an ear infection.
Ryan Jackson, Rene Howe and Adam Chapman made way but the changes didn’t have the desired effect in a low quality first half.
Both sides were clearly lacking in confidence after equally disappointing starts to 2014 and the Spring sunshine seemed to have a soporific effect on the players for the most part.
But one thing you can never accuse Pipe of is a lack of commitment and he brought the fans out of their slumbers with a fiercely-contested drop ball.
Burge had the first real shot on target on 22 minutes but his fierce drive was easily held by Artur Krysiak in the Exeter goal.
Robbie Willmott dragged a long range effort wide soon after and it took until the last five minutes of the half for the Grecians to trouble County.
Liam Sercombe and Eliot Richards both drew smart saves out of Ian McLoughlin who had been a relative spectator for much of his home debut up until that point.
The match really caught fire at the start of the second period, however, with Exiles defender Worley heavily involved at both ends.
He went close with a header from Willmott’s corner soon after the restart and then almost immediately headed past McLoughlin at the other end from Tom Nichols’ cross.
That could have been the moment that County’s fragile confidence completely shattered but, credit to Edinburgh’s men, they responded straight away.
Minshull scrambled in Willmott’s free-kick virtually on the line to put his side back on level terms within a minute.
Edinburgh then removed Yakubu and introduced young Aaron Holloway in an apparently bold attacking move.
But the Cardiff kid, who was signed as a striker, slotted in alongside Worley and Hughes in central defence – a position he has filled in his days in the Bristol City youth set-up and he looked comfortable there.
Crow looked to have been hauled down just outside the box and Minshull and Chris Zebroski both went down inside the area but referee Carl Boyeson dismissed the County appeals.
Edinburgh threw on Christian Jolley in place of Crow and Mike Flynn for the tiring Burge as his side pressed hard for a winner.
But there was no way through and County were left to reflect on a missed opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the drop zone.
County: McLoughlin, Pipe, Worley, Yakubu (Holloway, 55), Hughes, Willmott, Minshull, Porter, Burge (Flynn, 79), Crow (Jolley, 74), Zebroski
Subs not used: Chapman, Jeffers, Jackson, Howe
Exeter: Krysiak, Butterfield, Woodman, Bennett, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Richards, Moore-Taylor, Nichols (O’Flynn, 75), Gill
Subs not used: Baldwin, Davies, Parkin, Grimes, Pym, Wheeler
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Argus star man: Pipe
Comments are closed on this article.