NEWPORT County AFC defended superbly to claim a hard-earned point against Swindon Town after losing two key men to injury in the first half at Rodney Parade.

A second 0-0 home draw in four days was not what County required as they looked to keep alive their hopes of reaching the League Two play-offs.

But they did move to within five points of seventh-placed Exeter City, who went down to a 3-2 defeat at relegation-threatened Macclesfield Town.

The Exiles still have a game in hand over the Grecians and all the other teams above them, but time is running out in their pursuit of a top-seven spot.

Padraig Amond returned to the starting XI in the only change from Saturday’s stalemate against Tranmere Rovers.

But Michael Flynn’s plans were disrupted twice during a frantic first half with both Jamille Matt and Joss Labadie forced off due to injury.

Ade Azeez replaced Matt up front alongside Amond after 24 minutes and Andrew Crofts saw his first action since February 2 when Labadie was stretchered off in first-half stoppage time.

Those unplanned changes seemed to affect the Exiles, who had started brightly and showed their hunger by pressing the visitors hard in the opening stages.

Matt was involved in everything in the first 10 minutes, claiming a penalty when he was challenged in the box and then twice teeing up Amond, who headed the first opportunity wide and then blasted over the top with a tricky chance on the turn.

But Swindon’s quality began to show as the half progressed and they went closest to breaking the deadlock before the break.

Joe Day pushed out a fierce drive from Kyle Bennett and Theo Robinson failed to hit the target from the rebound.

Day then palmed away a 35-yard free-kick from Keshi Anderson before Regan Poole blocked another effort from the Swindon number 10.

Defender Ali Koiki saw his cross clip the top of the bar before Day was again forced into another fine save after an impressive run from Anderson.

And Kaiyne Wollery fired high and wide from the rebound as County survived a sustained period of pressure from the Robins.

Flynn’s men responded by carving out an opening for Robbie Willmott but his low drive was well saved by Luke McCormick and Labadie’s injury meant any momentum was lost.

South Wales Argus:

Poole looked like he might be the third County man to succumb to injury just after the break following a clumsy challenge, but the Manchester United youngster was cleared to continue after treatment.

And he was needed at the back as Swindon continued to make most of the running.

Day did well to hold on to a shot from Bennett with Woolery almost diverting it in from close range.

County’s best moments were coming from set-pieces with Mickey Demetriou’s long throws causing problems and Poole seeing two vicious shots blocked as he found space at the back post from a corner.

Swindon almost took advantage of that as they broke quickly upfield through Woolery and Anderson and former Exiles favourite Danny Rose was inches away from converting Kyle Knoyle’s cross.

The game became increasingly stretched as both sides searched for the winner they desperately needed.

Azeez flicked on a Demetriou throw but Amond's snap shot failed to trouble McCormick.

At the other end Demetriou blocked a Dion Conroy effort on the line and Day pulled off a world class save to deny the same player from the rebound.

Bennett then fired into the side netting from the corner before Flynn threw on Keanu Marsh-Brown for Ben Kennedy.

The lively Bennett saw another effort deflected wide as the County goal led a charmed life in the closing stages.

A brilliant defensive effort means the Exiles have now conceded just one goal in their last nine league games at home.

Dan Butler went close to a dramatic stoppage-time winner but, in the end, it was a point gained.

Whether it will be enough come the end of the season remains to be seen.

County: Day; Poole, O’Brien, Demetriou, Butler; Willmott, Sheehan, Labadie (Crofts, 45), Kennedy (Marsh-Brown, 77); Amond, Matt (Azeez, 24)

Subs not used: Pipe, Dolan, Bakinson, McKirdy

Booked: Sheehan, Crofts

Referee: Kevin Johnson

Attendance: 3,314 (704 Swindon)

Argus star man: Day