PROMOTION hopefuls Newport County AFC endured frustration after a dire draw with Stevenage at Rodney Parade.

The Exiles had to settle for a point from a low-quality, goalless encounter with goalkeeper Nick Townsend saving them from having to chase the game against the strugglers.

He raced off his line in the opening minute of the second half to deny Elliot List in a one-on-one but County weren’t able to make the most of their escape.

They huffed and puffed, failing to make the most of a number of set piece opportunities to put the Stevenage defence under serious pressure.

It was a professional job by the visitors and Michael Flynn’s men had to be content with a draw, failing to back up their excellent midweek win against Walsall.

It leaves them in the play-off places, staying sixth, but there will be disappointment at failing to chalk up another win in their bid to push towards the top three.

Conditions were testing but the pitch played a lot better than against Forest Green Rovers, with the ground staff profiting from more favourable preparation time.

Yet it still wasn’t conducive to flowing football, highlighting while the Exiles are asking the EFL if they can shift some games to another venue.

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Flynn was forced into a change and it was an important one with captain Joss Labadie, who scored the winner in Walsall after a tremendous performance, missing out.

The skipper was forced off in injury time at the Bescot Stadium after copping a heavy blow and his place in midfield went to Anthony Hartigan, the loanee from AFC Wimbledon.

County have switched between three and four at the back in recent months and this time it was the 3-5-2 that worked a treat in Walsall.

It was a predictably cagey opening in which the main action of note was Stevenage captain Scott Cuthbert clattering Nicky Maynard and somehow escaping with just a ticking off.

County were noticeably shooting on sight, mindful of the creativity problem, with Dom Telford and Hartigan both having a pop without testing goalkeeper Jamie Cumming.

In his Friday press conference Flynn pointed out the low number of shots on target in the four previous fixtures at Rodney Parade and the theme continued.

A quick corner after 36 minutes led to Ryan Haynes whipping in a ball from the left but Telford could only glance wide as Cumming waited to get his gloves dirty.

It was goalless at the break and the Exiles had failed to conjure a golden chance with their set-piece delivery leaving a lot to be desired.

They were lucky to still be on level terms a minute after the restart when a long ball led to List outpacing Demetriou and being one-on-one with Townsend.

The stopper came off his line and blocked superbly to get County out of jail and deny Stevenage a lead to hold onto.

Cumming had his first save after 52 minutes, albeit a routine one from a tame left-footed effort by Maynard, and the home frustration showed when Liam Shephard was booked for dissent approaching the hour.

Flynn added fresh legs after 64 minutes when opting for the energy of Padraig Amond and Jake Scrimshaw with Maynard and Telford off.

Eight minutes late it was the brawn of Ryan Taylor for Hartigan with County shifting to four at the back and pushing Dolan into midfield.

The Exiles continued to huff and puff, frustratingly failing to really stress the Stevenage defence from set piece opportunities.

Flynn used all five changes, bringing on Kevin Ellison and Luke Gambin, in a bid to turn a point into three.

County struck late a number of times in the purple patch that put them top of League Two but it never looked likely on this occasion.

Newport: Townsend, Farquharson, Dolan (Gambin 86), Demetriou, Shephard, Haynes (Ellison 86), Bennett, Sheehan (captain), Hartigan (Taylor 72), Telford (Scrimshaw 64), Maynard (Amond 64).
Substitutes: King, Lewis.

Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Coker, Cuthbert (captain), Osborne, Newton, Vancooten, List, Pett, Martin, Lines.
Substitutes: Johnson, Vincelot, Prosser, Hutton, Read, Aitchison, Stevens.

Referee: James Bell