NEWPORT County AFC let a two-goal lead slip and failed to find a winner against 10-men Mansfield Town in a brilliantly entertaining League Two opener at Rodney Parade.

First-half goals from captain Joss Labadie and striker Padraig Amond looked to have set Michael Flynn’s men on their way to a first opening-day victory since 2013.

But Mansfield, the pre-season promotion favourites, showed their pedigree as they fought back impressively after the break to claim a share of the points.

They could have won all three if Tom King hadn’t saved Nicky Maynard’s penalty, but they held on for the final 22 minutes after Jacob Mellis was sent off.

Goalkeeper King, right-back Danny McNamara, central defender Kyle Howkins and left-back Ryan Haynes all made their competitive debuts from the start and all contributed to a fantastic first 45 minutes for the Exiles.

King and Howkins didn’t have too much to do but always looked assured, while Millwall loanee McNamara demonstrated his composure and eye for a pass on several occasions.

But, of all the new arrivals, it was Haynes who really caught the eye with a performance that suggests that Flynn may just have found the perfect replacement for the departed Dan Butler.

The former Coventry City and Shrewsbury Town defender did everything that was asked of him at the back, which wasn’t too much in the first half, and attacked with intent down the left flank.

Haynes played a part in the opening goal in the sixth minute when Robbie Willmott’s shot was beaten away and he flicked on Matty Dolan's cross for the on-rushing Labadie to steer the ball inside the far post.

South Wales Argus:

Soon afterwards he picked out a run from Dolan with a superbly executed chipped pass as County continued to attack.

Jamille Matt went close with a header, Amond curled a shot inches over the top after being picked out from a corner, Labadie saw a volley cleared off the line and Dolan hit the bar with a free-kick.

At the other end, Neal Bishop’s header was deflected into the side netting and Mellis had King scrambling with a low drive that whizzed just past the post.

But County got the second they deserved when Matt was dragged down in the penalty area and Amond buried the spot-kick on 34 minutes.

It was a brilliant first-half for the hosts but the match was turned on its head in the opening 15 minutes after the break, which were breathless for all the wrong reasons as far as the Exiles were concerned.

Mansfield had made two substitutions either side of the break with Kellan Gordon and Otis Khan replacing CJ Hamilton and Ryan Sweeney and they looked a different team.

Flynn’s men were caught cold as they allowed Stags skipper Krystian Pearce to head home from a free-kick in the 48th minute.

And a mistake by King just over a minute later allowed Danny Rose’s weak shot to trickle over the line to level the match just four minutes after the restart.

In a frantic passage of play, the imperious Labadie was then denied a second goal by a superb save from Conrad Logan before Mansfield were awarded a soft-looking penalty when Khan tumbled in the box.

But King made amends for his earlier error as he dived to his left to keep out Maynard’s penalty.

That really lifted the home fans and they had renewed hope when Mellis was shown a straight red card following an altercation with Labadie on 68 minutes.

Corey Whitely replaced Dolan five minutes later as Flynn looked to make the most of the numerical advantage.

Matt spurned a headed chance and Haynes fired wide under pressure before Tristan Abrahams, on for McNamara, poked an effort off target.

Mickey Demetriou almost prodded in a winner two minutes from time, Willmott blazed high and wide in stoppage time and Amond saw a header disallowed for offside as the Exiles were forced to settle for a frustrating draw.

County: King; McNamara (Abrahams, 84), Howkins, Demetriou, Haynes; Willmott, Dolan (Whitely, 73) Labadie, Sheehan; Amond, Matt

Subs not used: Townsend, Stojsavljevic, Nurse, Bennett, Maloney

Referee: James Adcock

Attendance: 4,441 (493 Mansfield)

Argus star man: Labadie