A STOPPAGE-TIME leveller from substitute Shawn McCoulsky earned Newport County AFC a share of the spoils from a breathless opening game of the season at Stevenage.

County showed the spirit of the Great Escape once again as they fought back from 1-0 and 3-1 down to earn a deserved draw at the Lamex Stadium.

And, despite some defensive worries, this was a hugely encouraging start to Michael Flynn’s first full season in charge.

Flynn opted to go with the versatile Robbie Willmott at right wing-back, with David Pipe dropping to the bench in the only change from the defence that performed so well at the end of last season.

But that solid defensive unit didn’t exactly pick up where they left off in the early stages at the Lamex Stadium.

After a slow start, a classic mix-up between centre-back Scot Bennett and goalkeeper Joe Day gifted the hosts the opening goal in the 11th minute.

Bennett’s back pass was slightly under-hit and Day seemed to change his mind as he rushed out to clear the danger.

That momentary hesitation allowed Tom Pett to nip in, round Day and roll the ball into an empty net for the simplest of goals.

Stevenage dominated possession for the next 15 to 20 minutes without creating another chance of note but former Exiles loan star Alex Samuel was keeping Dan Butler busy.

Samuel, one of the key men in County’s successful battle against the drop last season, was bizarrely booed by some travelling fans but he was unaffected in an impressive first half display.

The visitors slowly began to go through the gears and they should have been level before the break after an encouraging final 20 minutes of the half.

Frank Nouble should certainly have scored one and could have had two before the break.

The big man will not want to see any replays of his first chance as he blazed over from close range after Matty Dolan’s free-kick came back off a post.

Dolan, who grew in influence throughout the first 45 minutes, then saw another free-kick palmed away by Stevenage goalkeeper Joe Fryer.

And Lamar Reynolds, playing up front with Nouble, turned in the box and unleashed a fierce drive that forced Fryer into another fine save.

The increasingly busy keeper then clawed a Nouble header away from the top corner after a fine cross from Willmott as County grew in confidence.

But there was nearly a second against the run of play for Stevenage five minutes before the break when Ronnie Henry found space on the right flank and whipped in a cross only for Samuel’s diving header to find the side netting.

Flynn’s men started the second half on top and were deservedly level within 10 minutes of the restart.

Reynolds was denied by Fryer in a one-on-one and the Exiles levelled from the corner as the ball was headed across goal before Nouble stabbed in from close range.

But, just as it appeared that they were set to take charge, County shot themselves in the foot once again.

Bennett chopped down Luke Wilkinson in the box and Dale Gorman restored Boro’s lead from the spot on 61 minutes.

Bennett appeared to hit out at the dugout in frustration when he was withdrawn shortly afterwards and striker Shawn McCoulsky was brought on in his place.

It looked like game over when Danny Newton added a third for the hosts on 72 minutes, latching on to Gorman’s deflected shot and volleying in from inside the area.

But County continued to fight and an absolute rocket from Mickey Demetriou gave them hope as the free-scoring defender found the top corner from 25 yards out.

With just under 15 minutes remaining, Flynn threw on Tom Owen-Evans for captain Joss Labadie and County poured forward.

And they finally got the goal and the point they deserved as super sub McCoulsky scrambled in to level in the fourth minute of time added on.

County: Day; Butler (Jahraldo-Martin, 90), Demetriou, Bennett (McCoulsky, 68), O’Brien, Willmott; Labadie (Owen-Evans, 78), Dolan, Rigg; Reynolds, Nouble

Subs not used: Bittner, Pipe, White, Williams

Referee: Martin Coy

Attendance: 2,650 (464 County)

Argus star man: Dolan