NEWPORT County AFC wasted a golden opportunity to beat a promotion rival after a shocking performance against nine-man Exeter City on Tuesday evening.

The Grecians had defender Alex Hartridge dismissed after eight minutes when he clipped Nicky Maynard as he ran in on goal.

The visitors still took the lead through Ryan Bowman but the goalscorer was sent off on the stroke of half-time for leading with his elbow in an aerial challenge with Mickey Demetriou.

County were 11 versus 9 for the whole of the second half yet were on the brink of a humiliating defeat when Dom Telford’s 88th-minute header salvaged a point.

Here are the talking points from Rodney Parade…


County are fifth so remain promotion contenders but a dramatic change in performance is needed if they are to stay in the mix.

There was a wobble in December and January was worrying but featured two solid draws against Salford and Cheltenham before Joss Labadie’s red card put them up against it in Oldham.

The loss at Harrogate at the end of that month was alarming because of the nature of the performance and that form has continued into February.

County won at Grimsby despite a shocking first half, lost to bottom club Southend and were ultimately fortunate to draw against nine-man Exeter.

They are struggling to adapt to the deteriorating Rodney Parade pitch but problems run deeper than that.

The poor run of form – eight points from the last 11 games – is bound to have hit morale and that is impacting decision-making. County don’t look solid and nor are they able to create – not a good combination.

Most would have seen a draw against Exeter as a solid result pre-game but that changed with the dismissals. 

This is a pivotal block of games with Forest Green on Saturday, Walsall away on Tuesday and then a home encounter with Stevenage.

South Wales Argus:


It’s impossible not to mention the pitch when a game is played at Rodney Parade.

County started in perfect fashion in the challenging conditions with a nicely lofted pass over the top by Ryan Taylor putting Maynard in, leading to Hartridge’s dismissal.

However, a defensive mistake by David Longe-King, who tried to be too clever with a flicked header rather than booting the ball into the Bisley Stand, allowed Bowman to finish excellently.

That allowed nine-man Exeter to use the blueprint that served 10-man County so well against Grimsby.

They had something to hold onto and defended with discipline in their 5-3-0, challenging the Exiles to create.

The pitch means that it’s incredibly hard to stretch a team from side to side, the pace of the ball is impacted by bobbles and players need to take extra care with their touch.

This was another game that showed the importance of being front-runners in Newport rather than chasing, although County’s quality on the ball left a lot to be desired…

South Wales Argus: MISSED: County could have done with Liam Shephard down the rightMISSED: County could have done with Liam Shephard down the right


Flynn spoke about how the Exiles missed Joss Labadie’s physical presence when they were stunned by Southend but the most costly dismissal has been Liam Shephard’s.

His lunge at Harrogate led to him sitting out the last three matches and County have suffered without his ability, energy and creativity down the right.

Priestley Farquharson started at full-back against Exeter until the first red prompted Flynn to shift him inside after bringing on Aaron Lewis.

He got in some terrific positions against the nine men in the second half but failed to make it count.

This was a game crying out for Shephard or, dare I say it, Robbie Willmott, who was ineligible after his deadline day loan move to Exeter.

County were hindered by the pitch when trying to swiftly move the Grecians around but they still had plenty of opportunities to whip the ball in only for the delivery to be poor from both flanks.

Similarly, they had 16 corners and a number of free-kicks in dangerous areas but rarely caused Exeter any stress.

The equaliser came from Ryan Haynes finally getting the pace and accuracy of a cross right. A few more of them and County would have been reflecting on a poor performance that yielded three precious points.

South Wales Argus:


Nicky Maynard poached a goal on his County debut against Grimsby, prompting manager Michael Flynn to say there was nobody he would rather the ball had fallen to.

That was a statement that Padraig Amond might have taken personally but Maynard’s quality is shown by his CV.

However, the 34-year-old needs to show that killer touch if County are to get back on track.

Against Southend he failed to score from close range in the closing stages and he was denied by the goalkeeper from six yards out against Exeter in the first half.

Maynard has been brought in for those exact moments and can’t afford to let chances go begging when they are at a premium in Newport.