NEWPORT County AFC fell to a first league defeat at Rodney Parade since February after substitute Tristan Abrahams missed a late penalty against Salford City.

The visitors led 1-0 before an own goal in first-half stoppage time gifted County parity at the break.

But more poor defending from the Exiles allowed Salford to restore their lead early in the second half and a late rally came to nothing after Josh Sheehan hit the post and Abrahams was denied from the spot.

Michael Flynn’s men remain seventh in the table despite a first defeat in 17 home league matches, four points behind new leaders Forest Green Rovers.

Flynn sprang a few surprises in his team selection with Taylor Maloney handed his first League start in midfield and striker Abrahams dropping to the bench after scoring in the last two games.

Matty Dolan and Jamille Matt also earned recalls, while Danny McNamara and George Nurse made way.

With captain Joss Labadie suspended, Mark O’Brien wore the armband as he lined up in a back three alongside Scot Bennett and Ryan Inniss.

That meant that Robbie Willmott and Ryan Haynes were deployed as wing-backs and Haynes certainly enjoyed getting forward down the left.

The former Shrewsbury Town man had two efforts in the opening stages after cutting in off the left, dragging one shot wide after a clever corner routine and seeing another diverted behind by Cameron Burgess as it headed towards the top corner.

Matt and Inniss also had half chances before Haynes crossed for Padraig Amond, who headed wide at the far post from close range.

That was a big let off for the visitors, who had created little of note early on, and they took full advantage by scrambling in the opener five minutes before the break.

Burgess got away from Inniss at a corner and nodded in from a yard out to give Salford a surprise lead.

But it didn’t last long as County forced a corner in first-half stoppage time and Dolan’s delivery was headed into his own net by Nathan Pond, under pressure from Inniss.

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The giant centre-back, who was erroneously credited with the equaliser, made further amends for his earlier error in the first minute of the second half as he raced back to clear the danger when Richard Towell threatened to score from a long ball over the top.

That reprieve was only temporary, however, as Salford edged ahead for a second time on 54 minutes.

Once again, the Exiles defence was caught cold at a set-piece as Ibou Touray’s free-kick picked out the unmarked Lois Maynard in the middle and he headed in off the underside of the bar from six yards.

Flynn looked to change things with a double substitution as Maloney and Dolan made way for McNamara and Abrahams midway through the second half.

Corey Whitely then replaced Willmott after Josh Sheehan had picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign and with it a one-game ban.

Salford survived two big appeals for handball in the box and they could have added a third when Jake Jervis broke clear but he was forced wide and his shot was off target.

Sheehan almost rescued a point 12 minutes from time when he hit the post after a neat lay-off from Matt.

And County spurned an even better opportunity in the 81st minute after Whitely was tripped on the edge of the box.

Abrahams, who came off the bench to level from the spot against Crawley Town last week, couldn’t repeat the trick this time as Mark Howard dived to his right to save his penalty.

Amond hooked a shot wide from the resulting corner and, despite seven minutes of injury time at the end, the Exiles couldn’t force a second equaliser and Salford became the first side to win at Rodney Parade in League Two since MK Dons in February.

County: King; O’Brien, Bennett, Inniss; Willmott (Whitely, 71), Dolan (Abrahams, 66), Sheehan, Maloney (McNamara, 62), Haynes; Amond, Matt

Subs not used: Townsend, Nurse, Collins, Poleon

Booked: Bennett, Sheehan

Referee: Will Finnie

Attendance: 3,947 (148 Salford)

Argus star man: Bennett