FOOTBALL is back and, if this breathless encounter is anything to go by, it’s going to be another rollercoaster ride for Newport County AFC and their fans.

Four goals, two penalties and a red card added up to fantastic entertainment for everyone at Rodney Parade and provided plenty of encouragement for Exiles boss Michael Flynn – even if it ultimately ended in frustration.

His side were dazzling for 45 minutes, dreadful for the next 15 and dominant for the final 30 and really should have secured all three points.

Captain Joss Labadie, who was excellent throughout, opened the scoring before Padraig Amond got off the mark from the penalty spot after Jamille Matt was dragged down in the box.

Labadie could have had a hat-trick and Matty Dolan also hit the bar with a free-kick, while there were a host of near-misses after Mansfield’s Jacob Mellis was sent off midway through the second half.

But a familiar failing cost the new-look side as they were caught cold at the start of the second half, conceding twice in 96 seconds as the visitors finally showed some of the quality that made them pre-season favourites for promotion.

Stags skipper Krystian Pearce got between Mickey Demetriou and new centre-back Kyle Howkins to head home from a free-kick in the 47th minute.

And new goalkeeper Tom King had a moment to forget as he was beaten by a tame Danny Rose effort.

But he redeemed himself just before the hour mark by keeping out Nicky Maynard’s penalty after Josh Sheehan was adjudged to have brought down substitute Otis Khan.

The red card, after Mellis stumbled onto the prone Labadie, looked harsh but County couldn’t make their numerical advantage pay.

South Wales Argus:

“I’m delighted with the players and pleased with the point, but I’m not sure I can do this every week!” said Dempster after the match.

“When the fixtures come out and you look at this one, you think an away point wouldn’t be a bad one.

“People would have thought we were dead and buried at half-time, but full credit [goes to] the players.

“Newport didn’t really know what hit them after half-time, and it’s just a shame that the sending off meant that we had to park the bus a little bit and fight for that point.

“I’m pleased with the point, with the confidence knowing that there is more in the tank.

“It’s just a shame that we couldn’t bury our penalty, as it may have been a different story. But only positives to take from it, because there was great character shown by the players."

The fact that a team with genuine promotion aspirations are happy to go home with a point from Rodney Parade shows that Flynn’s men are beginning to get the respect their performances deserve.

The Exiles boss admitted that his side went to sleep after half-time, but he was rightly pleased with the overall performance.

New full-backs Ryan Haynes and Danny McNamara both hit the ground running, while old hands Labadie, Dolan, Amond and Sheehan looked in fine form.

And there’s more to come with Mark O’Brien back from suspension for next week’s trip to Cambridge United, and the likes of Corey Whitely and Tristan Abrahams chomping at the bit after being restricted to late cameos on day one.

County have shown that they can compete with the best once again and it promises to be another exciting season.

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)