NEWPORT County AFC had to settle for a point in their push for promotion from League Two after being hit by a late leveller in Mansfield.

Time will tell whether it was a point gained at Field Mill but it certainly felt like two dropped after Michael Flynn’s men hit the front in the closing stages.

The deadlock was broken after 74 minutes when Joss Labadie robbed George Maris of the ball, drove towards the box and fired a left-footed shot that went underneath goalkeeper Aidan Stone.

Labadie earned a precious 1-0 win on the road at Walsall in February but this time they failed to hold onto the lead.

Mansfield levelled with six minutes to go when Liam Shephard failed to clear his lines and Tyrese Sinclair fired high into the net from inside the box.

It was an extremely poor goal to concede after the Exiles had looked set to grind out a vital victory to back up the 1-0 win against Bolton.

The strugglers denied play-off hopefuls Exeter on Bank Holiday Monday and did the same to County with another point to edge away from the drop zone.

Now Flynn & Co must watch the results come in on Saturday afternoon after failing to earn a maximum haul to close right in on the top three and provide some breathing space over the chasing pack in the race for the play-offs.

South Wales Argus:

Ahead of a week where County will host fellow promotion hopefuls Carlisle and Cambridge, the clash with the Stags felt like a must-not-lose after the fine 1-0 win against Bolton Wanderers.

Flynn made three changes, two of them forced with Mickey Demetriou back from suspension in place of the injured Priestley Farquharson and Dom Telford in up front for on-loan striker Nicky Maynard, who couldn't play against his parent club.

The final change saw Joe Ledley preferred to David Longe-King with Scot Bennett dropping back to the right of the defensive three.

It took just 30 seconds for County to enjoy an effort with wing-back Aaron Lewis firing at goalkeeper Stone from distance, a sweet strike but a routine save.

That was easy enough for the home stopper but Nick Townsend was sweating in the third minute after a cross from the left was struck towards goal by Sinclair but he was denied by a combination of the ‘keeper and the post.

The Stags were swiftly in their stride and centre back Ryan Sweeney fired over after a cross from the left in a worrying start for the Exiles, with the hosts causing issues with their midfield diamond.

County settled but were struggling to get their game going in heavy conditions that were reminiscent of Rodney Parade in the winter, with the pitch having boggy patches yet still given a pre-match watering.

Set pieces were vital and the Exiles should have hit the front from one after 25 minutes only for Ledley to fail to hit the target from a driven free-kicks into the six-yard box by Josh Sheehan.

On the half hour Telford shifted the ball nicely to work a chance on his left that led to a solid stop by Stone at his near post.

It wasn’t a half of flowing football but County needed to scrap, as they had against a quality Bolton team.

Mansfield went very close on 37 minutes when a ricochet allowed Stephen Quinn to open up his body and try to curl a shot from the left but he just failed to hit the target.

It was the home side that finished the half strongly with the Exiles having to be wary about their energy on the counter.

It was scoreless at the break, as it had been against Wanderers when Flynn changed his side’s shape for the second half.

This time he opted to stick with it for the start of the second half but it remained an even battle that suggested one goal could be enough.

The Stags came agonisingly close to getting their noses in front after 57 minutes when neat link-up play put dangerman Quinn in down the left but the veteran Irishman’s shot beat Townsend and rebounded out and to safety from the right post.

Mansfield were on top and County responded with their first change, bringing on the energy and industry of Jake Scrimshaw up front for Telford.

Another change came on 66 minutes with young Lewis Collins coming on for veteran Ledley; the Exiles desperately needed a spark if they were to turn one point into three.

The new man made an immediate impact with a burst from midfield but Scrimshaw’s pass forced him wide and his pull-back was fired well over the bar by Labadie.

However, the skipper made no mistake after 74 minutes when he fired home after winning the ball himself.

The Stags needed to respond – and did with six minutes to go.

A period of pressure was rewarded when Shephard failed to clear and was dispossessed by Sinclair, who fired high past Townsend.

It was Mansfield that finished on the front foot as the rain hammered down but it ended up honour even, probably a fair result.

Mansfield: Stone, Perch, Rawson, Sweeney, McLaughlin, Maris, Quinn, O Clarke (captain), Lapslie, Sinclair, Bowery.
Substitutes: Stech, Benning, Charsley, Gordon, Reid, Ward, Law.
Goal: Sinclair

County: Townsend, Bennett, Dolan, Demetriou, Shephard, Lewis, Sheehan, Ledley (Collins 66), Labadie (captain), Telford (Scrimshaw 61), Taylor.
Substitutes: King, Longe-King, Ellison, Gambin, Amond.
Booked: Lewis
Goal: Labadie