EXETER City manager Matt Taylor was disappointed that his nine men didn’t leave Newport County AFC with three points after a heroic effort at Rodney Parade.

The Grecians were close to a remarkable victory after playing with 10 men from the eighth minute until the stroke of half-time, when they received a second red.

Exeter, who would have leapfrogged County with victory, went into the lead through Ryan Bowman despite last man Alex Hartidge’s early dismissal for bringing down Nicky Maynard.

Bowman was then sent off for clattering Mickey Demetriou with his left elbow but the Devon side held on until Dom Telford’s 88th-minute leveller.

“I don’t think I’ve been as proud of my players in the two and a half years I’ve been at Exeter City,” said Taylor, who had a brief spell with the Exiles in 2015.

“Anyone who was here will have seen a team with the desire and determination to hold onto something. For nine men to do that for such a long time against a good Newport outfit was outstanding.

Exeter boss Matt Taylor

Exeter boss Matt Taylor

“We gave them a real plan at half-time. It may have looked negative, but that’s the only way you can play with nine men. We played half a pitch to nullify certain aspects of Newport’s play.

“I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t get three points because for long periods of the second half they were getting frustrated. I can’t hide how proud I am of them.

“We are in a difficult position with injuries and the two suspensions won’t make things any easier, but we’ve got a few coming back for the weekend and the last couple of weeks have shown this group is not lacking character.

“We might lack quality and make mistakes, but nobody can question the guts and character of this team.”

The red cards looked to be the correct call from referee Tom Nield, who was guided for the Bowman decision after it took place right in front of his linesman, but Taylor disagreed.

“The first one wasn’t a sending off. There was a foul in the build-up and the lad was going away from goal,” claimed Taylor.

“There were two defenders on the cover and I was surprised how quick he was to brandish a red card. That put us on the back foot straight away and made it a difficult evening.

“It looks like he (Ryan) led with his arm. You want your centre-forward competing when you’ve got 10 men and their lad stayed to the floor.

“Our centre-halves got a few bangs early on and didn’t stay on the floor. I thought the referee was influenced all night long. He had a poor evening, but he’s learning his trade.”

Forest Green continued their push for automatic promotion as Josh Davison’s header earned them a 4-3 home win over Oldham.

Former County striker Jamille Matt, who scored against the Exiles at the New Lawn in December, was on the scoresheet ahead of his return to Rodney Parade.