JAMES Rowberry tasted defeat for the first time as a manager in the league after Newport County AFC were hit by a late Swindon sucker-punch.

The Exiles headed into the clash with their fellow promotion hopefuls on a seven-game unbeaten streak, with the new boss having enjoyed four wins in League Two since taking the reins.

It looked that he would have to settle for a share of the spoils for the first time only for Jack Payne to drive in from distance to make it 2-1 with three minutes to go.

Both sides were left to lament some poor decision-making in the final third as the game was goalless until the final 20, when there was a quickfire double.

First Swindon hit the front when Finn Azaz put the ball into his own net under pressure at a corner but County were behind on 72 minutes and level on 73 courtesy of in-form Dom Telford.

South Wales Argus: LEVELLER: Dom Telford made it 1-1LEVELLER: Dom Telford made it 1-1

Just like at the death in Hartlepool last weekend it was right-back Cameron Norman that provided the assist for the diminutive striker, who has now scored 12 goals in 13 games.

Yet County were undone late on when Ed Upson was outmuscled in midfield and Payne fired in a left-footed shot that eluded Joe Day’s dive.

It was a disappointing result for the Exiles yet it was a game that suggests both teams will be in the mix for promotion.

Rowberry stuck with the XI from Hartlepool with a solitary change on the bench, fit-again defender/midfielder Scot Bennett replacing Chris Missilou after nine weeks out with a foot injury.

Swindon made the relatively short trip to Newport with the aim of continuing their impressive form on the road; they had won six and drawn two of eight games in the league.

It was an intriguing opening with both sides comfortable on the ball and trying to pull their opponents out of position.

County’s first effort came in the 15th minute when Dom Telford timed his run well and tested out Jojo Wollacott with a shot from a tight angle.

The Exiles grew into the game and were testing the Robins with some delightful football – the only grumble was that they didn’t quite make the most of getting into good positions.

Wollacott had to save smartly from Ollie Cooper at his near post and then saw Finn Azaz strike the outside of the woodwork, although the ‘keeper had it covered.

Cooper then turned provider by chipping a cross into the box but Courtney Baker-Richardson couldn’t get enough power on his header to trouble the stopper.

It wasn’t one-way traffic, however, with Swindon carrying a threat in attacking areas as half-time approached.

Kaine Kesler-Hayden became the afternoon’s villain by going down too easily in the box and was then clobbered late by Mickey Demetriou, a crude foul that saw the centre-back deservedly become the first man in the book.

It was goalless at the break with both managers having plenty to ponder, with Rowberry having to consider if tinkering was needed to rediscover their rhythm from the middle of the first half.

Swindon started the brighter after the resumption and it took a wonderful save by Joe Day to keep County level, the ‘keeper getting his fingertips to a drive from distance by Alex Gilbert.

It was then Wollacott’s turn to produce the goods, turning Matty Dolan’s free-kick from the right wing behind for a corner after the captain’s dangerous ball had gone all the way through.

The momentum had swung towards the hosts with Telford nodding just over from Demetriou’s header across the box.

It remained goalless on the hour and Swindon called classy Wales international Jonny Williams into action to provide some extra guile on the ball.

There was then the mad few minutes in which County nearly shot themselves in the foot after Day’s’ woeful clearance and then did concede from the resulting corner.

Azaz was credited with an own goal after being put under pressure by Ellis Iandolo but the Exiles weren’t behind for long.

The response was immediate with Cameron Norman doing superbly to control down the right before driving in a cross that Telford converted from close range.

The game stayed manic and it took another wonderful save by Day to deny Louis Reed from distance but there was nothing that the ‘keeper could do with three minutes left.

Payne fired in a low shot that sparked wild celebrations in the away end.

County brought on Kevin Ellison and Timmy Abraham in a bid to fight back again but failed to get another dramatic leveller.

County: Day, Clarke, Dolan (captain), Demetriou, Norman, Haynes, Upson (Abraham 90), Azaz, Cooper (Cain 79), Baker-Richardson (Ellison 88), Telford.
Subs: Townsend, Lewis, Bennett, Ellison, Cain, Fisher, Abraham.
Yellow: Demetriou, Dolan
Goal: Telford

Swindon: Wollacott, Odimayo, Iandolo, Conroy (captain), Gladwin, Simpson, Payne, Gilbert, Kesler-Hayden, Hunt, Reed.
Substitutes: Ward, Lyden, Mitchell-Lawson, Williams, East, Dabre, Minturn.
Yellow: Gladwin
Goals: Azaz (own goal), Payne

Referee: James Bell
Attendance: 5,141 (1,027)