SUBSTITUTE Tristan Abrahams came off the bench to rescue a point for Newport County AFC with his first touch.

County looked to be heading to their first League Two defeat at Rodney Parade since February as Crawley Town led through a first-half penalty.

But Abrahams ambled on to hammer the Exiles level from the spot 16 minutes from time.

The 1-1 draw sees Michael Flynn’s men slip to fifth in the table, but they remain three points behind leaders Crewe Alexandra with a game in hand.

Flynn had resisted the temptation to make changes as he named the same starting XI that had beaten Scunthorpe United on Saturday.

And Josh Sheehan, who hit a sublime winner in that match, picked up where he’d left off at the weekend.

Sheehan is the best player in the division according to his teammate Padraig Amond, but the midfielder admitted that he wants to add more goals to his game.

He clearly fancied his chances against Crawley and he was unlucky not to put his side ahead again with a superb effort in the ninth minute.

Ryan Haynes, excellent as ever down the left, beat his man and cut the ball back to the edge of the box.

Sheehan’s curling effort looked to be heading for the bottom corner but Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris had other ideas, flinging himself to his right and diverting the ball to safety with a strong wrist.

Sheehan then showed the other side of his game as he chased back and won possession with a well-timed tackle to release Joss Labadie, whose shot lacked the power to trouble Morris.

Danny McNamara then nipped in off the right flank and fed Sheehan but this time his shot was wayward.

Reece Grego-Cox, who had a brief loan spell with the Exiles back in 2016, threatened to come back to haunt his old side at the other end but he dragged his shot wide from 20 yards.

Bez Lubala went closer with a powerful drive from 30 yards that just cleared Tom King’s bar.

But County were on top, with Robbie Willmott forcing another impressive save out of Morris with a whipped free-kick midway through the half.

And it was something of a surprise when the visitors were handed the lead on 35 minutes in controversial circumstances.

Lubala drove a cross in from the left and the ball hit a County hand at speed.

Referee Darren Drysdale took a moment to think before responding in the affirmative to the Crawley appeals for a penalty and Ashley Nathaniel-George beat King from the spot.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn responded by making a double change at the start of the second half, sending on George Nurse and Corey Whitely in place of McNamara and Jamille Matt.

They thought they had a penalty of their own three minutes after the restart when Mark O’Brien appeared to be clattered by David Sesay as he was taking aim in the box, but Drysdale somehow saw a foul the other way.

Sheehan then tested Morris again with a piledriver from 35 yards that the keeper palmed out and Padraig Amond failed to control the rebound.

There was another big penalty shout when Ryan Inniss, again the target of the majority of Exiles set-pieces, appeared to be hauled to the ground by visiting skipper Tom Dallison but again Drysdale was unmoved.

Flynn’s men were piling on the pressure and Inniss hooked a shot over the top after Morris had dropped a high ball under pressure.

There was a let off as Crawley were denied a second penalty when Lubala looked to be chopped down in the box.

But County went straight down the other end to finally win a spot-kick of their own.

First Labadie and then Sheehan tumbled theatrically in the box and Drysdale eventually pointed to the spot for the foul by Tarryn Allarakhia.

Amond grabbed the ball but Flynn opted to send on Abrahams for Labadie and the substitute buried the penalty to level the match with his first touch.

Scot Bennett almost turned in a Willmott cross and Grego-Cox went close as both sides pushed for three points in the closing stages, but they had to settle for a share of the spoils after Abrahams hit the post deep into stoppage time.

County: King; McNamara (Nurse, 46), O’Brien, Inniss, Haynes; Bennett; Willmott, Sheehan, Labadie (Abrahams, 73); Amond, Matt (Whitely, 46)

Subs not used: Townsend, Dolan, Maloney, Abrahams, Poleon

Referee: Darren Drysdale

Attendance: 3,119 (83 Crawley)

Argus star man: Sheehan