THEY left it late, but Newport County AFC did just enough to secure a place in the League Two play-offs after a dramatic final-day battle at Morecambe.

Former County man Aaron Collins looked to have ruined the top-seven dream as he put the hosts ahead in the first half.

But Jamille Matt was the hero as he bundled in an 87th-minute equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw and that was enough to book a play-off semi-final date with Mansfield Town.

There was no indication of the nervy 90 minutes to come in a scrappy opening period.

In the continuing absence of Joss Labadie, Michael Flynn kept faith with the same starting XI that saw off Oldham Athletic on Tuesday.

And they started pretty brightly with Robbie Willmott causing problems down the right flank in the opening exchanges.

Willmott saw a deflected shot headed away and then crossed for Mark O’Brien, whose somehow sent his header back across goal and the chance was gone.

But it was Morecambe who made the breakthrough with their first real attack in the 20th minute.

A high ball over the top caught out the County defence and Collins got the better of Regan Poole and Mark O’Brien before drilling a low shot past Joe Day from the edge of the area.

The Exiles academy graduate didn’t celebrate in front of the travelling fans, but the damage was done.

The amber army tried to lift their side and Willmott and Dan Butler both had half chances to level but both shot wide under pressure.

The home fans thought they should have had a penalty when Vadaine Oliver was sent flying in mid-air in the box, but most of the chances were at the other end as the first period came to a close.

Former Morecambe man Padraig Amond saw a fierce effort well blocked by Luke Conlan before Josh Sheehan had three quickfire shots from close range to no avail.

South Wales Argus:

Butler and Amond both tested Shrimps goalkeeper Mark Halstead after the restart and Scot Bennett headed over from a Matty Dolan corner.

But, as Flynn’s men pushed forward, the hosts looked increasingly dangerous on the break.

Steve Old, Paul McKay, Collins and Oliver all fired off target, but Day was forced into a fine reflex save to deny Collins a second.

The Exiles had to go for broke and Flynn threw on Ade Azeez and Harry McKirdy for Dolan and Poole.

Jim Bentley responded by sending on County’s bogeyman Kevin Ellison.

McKirdy went down claiming a penalty before blasting a shot high over the stand as the Exiles attacks became increasingly desperate.

At the other end Ellison stumbled into the box and teed up fellow sub Liam Mandeville, but his shot was palmed away by Day.

The tension was palpable but County didn’t give up and they got the goal they needed three minutes from the end.

Azeez won a high ball and it fell invitingly for Matt to tap in from less than a yard out right in front of the jubilant travelling fans.

County: Day; Poole (McKirdy, 74), O’Brien, Demetriou; Willmott, Bennett, Sheehan (Marsh-Brown, 86), Butler; Dolan (Azeez, 58); Amond, Matt

Subs not used: Pipe, Crofts, Bakinson 

Referee: Neil Hair

Argus star man: Amond