LENELL JOHN-LEWIS finally scored and broke his duck as Newport came from behind to secure a vital draw with Exeter City.

The Exiles produced a much-improved display on a day of firsts, suggesting brighter times to come following a true battling display against a very good side.

Following Newport this week has been like something out of the plot of a Hollywood movie, the exciting chase to see whether they’d make a significant event happen, with several pit-falls awaiting them along the way, before the drama gives way to a big break-up between club and manager.

As far as changes go, this was more new franchise than reboot, with the Exiles becoming a supporter-owned club and entirely changing their management team, all within a whirlwind 24-hours.

New boss John Sheridan is a departure as well, the Daniel Craig to Terry Butcher’s Piers Brosna; younger, more down with the kids, but crucially, already familiar with his surroundings.

Whether the Exiles get their Hollywood happy ending, of survival in League Two, awaits to be seen, but Newport certainly looked a different proposition after the changes that have swept the club.

From the outset it was clear that things are shining a bit brighter for the fans, who were in fantastic voice, not least after the introduction of new boss Sheridan and crucially, his assistants, the returning Mike Flynn and more prominently used Byron Anthony.

The players also responded, at least fleetingly, County that little bit sharper and more positive from the off, in the desire to impress their new manager.

However, where County are a pup of a club, in terms of supporter ownership, Exeter are the real deal, a thriving Trust with great numbers and stability on and off the field, with manager Paul Tisdale nothing short of the Arsene Wenger of the lower leagues, his almost ten-year tenure at the helm of Exeter a veritable life sentence.

There was no prospect that Exeter, with a sizeable away following as always, were merely going to come to Newport and play the role of soft touch, and they were marginally the better side in an even opening 30 minutes.

While there were clear and undeniable signs of improvement from the Exiles – who played 4-4-2 and welcomed back Matt Taylor, who made a big difference – it was still the visitors who fashioned the only clear-cut chance in the opening exchanges.

That came exactly halfway through the opening period, Christian Ribeiro crossing for Lee Holmes who seemingly couldn’t miss from three-yards out, somehow, only he will know how, contriving to scoop the ball over the bar.

It was a major let-off for the Exiles, but they looked far more composed at the back with Taylor’s return helping to inspire Janoi Donacien to a vastly-improved display.

Indeed, towards half time the Exiles even began to fashion chances of their own after at least some green-shoots of encouragement, Mark Byrne shooting straight at Robert Olejnik and over the bar with Aaron Collins also coming close after Scott Boden’s cross, Olejnik again denying County.

Sheridan’s first change as a Newport manager was enforced, with Tom Owen-Evans introduced for Yan Klukowski. However, undeterred the Exiles produced their best spell of the match and arguably the campaign, 15 minutes of sustained pressure, culminating in a Boden drive that Olejnik did well to repel.

You could sense the belief beginning to return to Sheridan’s charges, with momentum swinging their way for once, but the reminder that football is a cruel game arrived just past the hour, Exeter breaking with pace and purpose, Joel Grant able to convert low and hard into the bottom corner.

It was against the run of play, but Newport survived a huge test of character to respond, Lenell John-Lewis finally converting for the first time this season with 15 minutes remaining, sweeping home a rebound to set up a grandstand finish.

Sub Alex Rodman also went close, forcing Olejnik to save with his legs as the decibels were raised to unprecedented levels in Rodney Parade, but Newport were content to hold out for a draw that suggests better times are coming.

Newport: (4-4-2): Day, Holmes, Barrow, Taylor, Donacien; Elito, Byrne, Klukowski (Owen-Evans 51), Collins (Blackwood 64); John-Lewis, Boden (Rodman 72)

Subs not used: Taylor, Nana-Twumasi, Partridge, Parselle

Booked: None

Exeter: (4-3-3): Olejnik, Ribeiro, Moore-Taylor, Tilson, Brown; Oakley, Noble, Holmes (Nichols 77); Wheeler (Nicholls 77), Morrison (Davies 77), Grant

Subs not used: Butterfield, McCready, Pym

Booked: Noble