AFTER that opening day defeat at Mansfield Town, Newport County AFC were determined to put up a better showing at another one of the pre-season promotion favourites and they were certainly a match for Exeter City at St James Park.

They may only have returned from Devon with a point but this was another positive step for County following the home win over Crewe Alexandra and a comprehensive Carabao Cup victory at Cambridge United.

It’s been an impressive response from Michael Flynn’s men to the false start at Field Mill and the fact that they came from behind to claim a deserved point against Exeter will only add to their growing confidence.

It’s still early days, of course, but the spirit shown over the past few weeks – and particularly on Saturday – bodes well for the many battles ahead.

County fell behind against the run of play when Jayden Stockley headed in from a free-kick midway through the first half.

And the hosts could have wrapped up the points but for some outstanding goalkeeping from Joe Day.

But, just when it looked like the visitors would be made to rue some poor finishing, up popped 19-year-old substitute Mark Harris to rescue a point and keep his manager and the travelling fans smiling.

“Exeter are a strong unit,” said Flynn. “They’ve been there or thereabouts over the past few years and they could have gone away with the points without really deserving them.

“That would have been hard to take so, even though I’m frustrated, the character and the resilience the boys showed to keep going and score that late goal was pleasing and satisfying.

“I don’t take any notice of the league table. I didn’t think ‘we’re playing the league leaders so should we be more cautious or sit back a bit.’

“We had a game-plan to go and win the football match and it nearly came off.”

Flynn was pleased to get a point in the end but also frustrated because he felt it could have been more and he knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“It was a good point,” added the Exiles boss. “We weren’t at our best and it was a little bit frustrating because we were the better team without being at our best.

“It’s frustrating that we couldn’t get a few more goals. We weren’t bright enough or sharp enough in the final third.

“Crosses were over-hit and there was no anticipation to get across the front of the defender.

“I thought our midfield three were, for whatever reason, slightly off it, intensity-wise and quality-wise going forward.”

New Grecians manager Matt Taylor saw his former club end his 100 per cent start to life in the hot seat and he admitted the match was something of a reality check for them.

“Newport are a good team. It’s a point gained,” said Taylor, whose side remain top of the early League Two table.

“Full credit to them; they put us under constant pressure. It’s another point on the board.

“We weren’t going to win every game, people were getting carried away a little bit, so maybe it’s what a few people needed, a reality check, but certainly not my players – my players know exactly what a tough season lies ahead.”

There is no let-up for either side as another round of fixtures on Tuesday night sees Exeter go to Cambridge and Flynn’s men host Notts County at Rodney Parade.

Notts head to Newport on the back of Friday’s shock 4-0 home defeat to Yeovil Town but County have demonstrated how quickly things can change in League Two.

Beware the wounded Magpies.

County: Day; Franks, Bennett, Demetriou; Pipe (Marsh-Brown 46), Dolan, Bakinson, Butler; Sheehan (Harris, 73); Matt (Semenyo, 60), Amond

Subs not used: Townsend, O’Brien, Forbes, Cooper

Booked: Bennett, Harris

Referee: Chris Sarginson

Attendance: 4,239 (332 County)