NEWPORT County AFC burgled a precious point at Crawley Town thanks to a late goal by League Two’s form striker Dom Telford.

The Exiles bossed the first half at Broadfield Stadium, were outplayed in the second yet left Sussex with what turned out to be a good 1-1 draw in freezing conditions.

It was almost a case of rope-a-dope by Crawley, who were a stubborn side in the first 45 minutes who were content to sit and play the role of the away team.

Crawley, with their disciplined and imposing flat back four and well-drilled midfield, challenged the Exiles to break through and got through to the break on level terms.

They then dominated the start of the second half, got their lead and stayed on top against a disjointed County side.

County fell behind in the 55th minute when they failed to defend a free-kick and Kwesi Appiah headed in unmarked from six yards out.

It was a performance that contrasted starkly to Swindon yet they got nothing for that display and earned a share of the spoils thanks to predator Telford’s finish, his 13th of the season, with seven minutes to go.

After a couple of narrow escapes even later on, it was a night for accepting the point, getting quickly on the team bus, whacking the heaters on full and having a content snooze on the way back to Newport.

Now they need to dig deep when on the road again to try and leave Essex with something at Colchester on Friday night.

South Wales Argus:

Rowberry freshened up his starting line-up by making two changes with Aaron Lewis replacing Ryan Haynes down the left while Kevin Ellison got the nod ahead of Courtney Baker-Richardson up front.

It was the 42-year-old’s first league start of the season while he was in the XI only twice in last season’s promotion push, at Grimsby in December and against Cambridge at home in April.

There was still no place in the matchday 18 for midfielder Robbie Willmott, who was back out of coronavirus isolation but no doubt lacking sharpness after missing over a week of training.

It was an uneventful start in terms of chances with the incidents of note being centre-back James Clarke needing treatments on his right ankle after being the victim of a heavy tackle and right wing-back Cameron Norman correctly cautioned for illegally stopping a counter-attack.

Crawley had efforts by George Francomb and James Tilley blocked while young loanees Ollie Cooper and Finn Azaz were leading the charge for the Exiles.

County had a couple of corners that came to nothing and their first big chance came after 24 minutes when in-form striker Dom Telford played in Azaz but the Aston Villa prospect seemed to be caught in two minds and dinked a cross/shot across the face of goal rather than putting his boot through it.

Glenn Morris was forced into a save on 31 minutes when Ellison, mindful that he wouldn’t win the footrace, tried his luck from distance after being played through and the goalkeeper took no risks to tip wide.

Norman slammed a shot wide from a very tight angle after the resulting corner fell at his feet.

County were dominating possession against a home side that were content to sit deep; it was reminiscent of sections of last season when quality and decision-making hindered Michael Flynn’s side in the final third.

They comfortably had the better of the first half and worked the ball nicely at times yet it was goalless at the break and they hadn’t made Morris work too hard.

It certainly was a thriller but there was enough reason for encouragement in the hunt for three points rather than one.

However, they were forced into a rejig when captain Matty Dolan was forced off five minutes after the restart with Liverpool midfielder Jake Cain taking his spot.

That was swiftly followed by the opener – a poor free-kick was conceded, Jack Powell put in a delightful ball and Appiah was unmarked six yards out.

South Wales Argus:

Rowberry responded with his second change with Ellison replaced by Baker-Richardson; the freshening up was needed but the experiment hadn’t worked on the scoresheet.

It was suddenly all Crawley with Exiles failing to find teammates on the ball and failing to stay tight to opponents without it.

Joe Day had no chance with the goal and the stopper kept County in the game by saving well to his right after lively sub Will Ferry had shifted the ball onto his left foot after 67 minutes.

The clock was not the visitors’ friend and they were giving away cheap free-kicks that prevented them from building up a head of steam in the hunt for a leveller.

The Exiles had the opportunity to conjure something from set plays but they were easily dealt with the Crawley, who got through the 80-minute mark with their clean sheet intact.

Rowberry made his final change by bringing on targetman Alex Fisher for midfielder Ed Upson with seven minutes left and perhaps that played a part in the leveller.

It was similar to Telford’s strike against Swindon – the ball was driven in from the right and he was on the spot.

It wasn’t deserved. The away fans behind the goal certainly didn’t care.

Yet it took two escapes to prevent Crawley doing a Swindon by hitting the front again – Appiah chipped against the bar and then Day produced a stunning save to deny Reece Grego-Cox.

Crawley: Morris, Davies, Francomb, Craig, Powell, Nadesan, Frost, Tilley, Fracillette, Appiah, Hessenthaler.
Substitutes: Grego-Cox, Nichols, Battle, Ferry, Kowalczyk, Bansal-McNulty, Noukeu.
Yellow: Appiah, Nadesan.
Goal: Appiah.

County: Day, Clarke, Dolan (captain, Cain 52), Demetriou, Norman, Lewis, Upson (Fisher 83), Azaz, Cooper, Telford, Ellison (Baker-Richardson 56).
Substitutes: Townsend, Haynes, Bennett, Cain, Abraham.
Yellow: Norman, Clarke, Fisher
Goal: Telford

Referee: Sam Allison