CARETAKER boss Wayne Hatswell totted up another point for the new Newport County AFC manager after a hard-earned 2-2 draw at Exeter City.

The Exiles stretched their unbeaten run to three games after an entertaining contest at St James Park, a solid return against a team likely to be in the mix for the play-offs.

County led 2-1 at the break thanks to goals by Robbie Willmott, who spent the second half of last season on loan in Devon, and Courtney Baker-Richardson either side of a Matt Jay strike.

READ MORE: Wayne Hatswell's post-match reaction

They were pegged back nine minutes after the restart when Sam Nombe’s curling shot went in off the far post.

It was an entertaining game in which both sides had their spells of pressure but neither was able to find a third goal, and neither deserved to go home empty-handed.

The Exiles are closing in on their next boss, with James Rowberry the bookies’ favourite to lead his hometown club, and the chosen one will take over a team in solid form.

A win against Scunthorpe has been backed up by draws against Bradford City and Exeter, a pair of tough teams.

South Wales Argus:

Hatswell will be a hard act to follow, and one assumes he may get another game in charge against Carlisle in Newport on Tuesday given the quick turnaround.

He named the same line-up for the third game on the spin while the same seven options were on his bench.

County changed to a flat four early on against Bradford but went back to a 3-5-2 at the start in Devon.

The last game on the road was at Barrow when previous boss Michael Flynn, after what turned out to be his last fixture at the helm, had said his players were “cowardly” in the second half.

An away clash against an Exeter side who had lost just once was a big test of their character.

The first major flashpoint came after just three minutes when the Exiles went on the counter-attack and Ollie Cooper was clobbered late by Colin Daniel, who flew in recklessly.

Referee Trevor Kettle, perhaps influenced by the offence being so early, quickly reached for his yellow card when Newport players were quick to the scene to suggest red.

County would have been content with their start but they had failed to test Exeter goalkeeper Cameron Dawson.

That changed after 11 minutes – and he could do nothing about Willmott’s effort.

County broke forward and Cooper cut the ball back for the midfielder, who dummied on his right and then shot low into the far corner with his left.

It was a delightful finish by a man who Exeter boss Matty Taylor rightly said has been the Exiles’ player of the season in his pre-match media duties.

He pinpointed Willmott as the County dangerman and Jay is the Grecians’.

The captain is a master at exploiting space between the defence and attack, and made that count after 21 minutes. Jay burst forward before sidefooting in a shot that wrong-footed Joe Day, maybe due to the ‘keeper being unsighted.

Exeter had their tails up and it took a strong block by Mickey Demetriou to deny Sam Nombe… but their ‘keeper gifted the lead back to County.

South Wales Argus: Courtney Baker-Richardson fires inCourtney Baker-Richardson fires in

The away team counter attacked to release some pressure and Baker-Richardson decided to have a crack, his connection was strong but Dawson had a shocker and failed to keep the shot out at his near post.

It was an open game with both teams playing some nice stuff, too open for County’s liking given their 2-1 lead with Jevani Brown curling a shot just wide for the hosts after 38 minutes.

An open game calmed down for the closing stages of the half and County safely made it to the break with their advantage intact.

The Exiles made a change in a bid to protect their lead by shifting Matty Dolan into midfield to join Ed Upson.

They had a chance to stretch the lead but Willmott opted against pulling the trigger on a counter and it was level-pegging after 54 minutes.

Nombe cut in on his right and curled in a shot from the edge of the area that went in off the far post of Day, who had just called for a cap to cope with the sun.

County needed to steady the ship and Hatswell turned to his bench to add some energy up top, bringing on targetman Alex Fisher and Finn Azaz for Baker-Richardson and Telford approaching the hour.

The Exiles also returned to three at the back on an afternoon where Exeter’s lively front men posed plenty of problems.

County rode out the storm and came close to scoring the fifth goal of the afternoon only for Ollie Cooper, who slid in to shoot, to be denied by a fine stop by Dawson after being played in by Upson.

Hatswell made his third and final change with five minutes left by bringing on Liverpool loanee Jake Cain for Swansea prospect Cooper.

Both teams enjoyed half chances approaching the 90 but couldn’t be separated despite six minutes of added time, a fair outcome after a tight contest.

Exeter: Dawson, Jay (captain), Collins, Nombe, Key, Dieng, Brown, Daniel, Sweeney, Edwards-Owura, Hartridge.
Substitutes: Lee, Caprice, Atangana, Ray, Taylor, Grounds, Coley.
Yellow: Daniel, Taylor
Goal: Jay, Nombe

County: Day, Clarke, Dolan (captain), Demetriou, Norman, Haynes, Upson, Willmott, Cooper (Cain 85), Baker-Richardson (Fisher 59), Telford (Azaz 59).
Substitutes: Townsend, Lewis, Ellison, Abraham.
Yellow: Baker-Richardson
Goals: Willmott, Baker-Richardson

Referee: Trevor Kettle