NEWPORT County AFC’s losing streak stretched to seven games in League Two after giant striker Matt Smith struck at the death for Salford.

The Exiles looked set to turn a losing run into a winless one when it was goalless going into added time.

But Smith, who had only been brought on at the death, smashed a rebound in for his 24th goal of the campaign from close range just seconds after he had hit the right post with a header.

It was a sucker punch for the Exiles just as they seemed set to stop the rot but they could have few complaints - injury-hit County were once again lacking energy, snap, creativity and quality.

It was a game of few clear chances but it was Salford that had the best of the openings, often created by County.

They now limp to Bradford, who could be hunting the play-offs, on final day with the aim of somehow ending the miserable streak before next season.

South Wales Argus: BLOCK: Matty Bondswell with a tackle for Newport CountyBLOCK: Matty Bondswell with a tackle for Newport County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Coughlan made two changes to the XI that faced Tranmere with fit-again Matty Bondswell and Scot Bennett returning for Seb Palmer-Houlden and Harry Charsley.

Stalwart Bennett captained the side from midfield, with teen Nelson Sanca continuing at the heart of the defence, while Bondswell’s presence allowed Will Evans to return up front after covering at left wing-back.

County made a promising start with both Evans and Sanca heading at goal, albeit lacking power to seriously trouble ‘keeper Alex Cairns, and Luke Jephcott had a shot blocked behind.

They had their best chance in the 17th minute when Harrison Bright crossed with his left foot from the right of the box but Omar Bogle glanced his header wide.

The only trouble that the Exiles had at the other end was of their own making.

With shades of Grimsby away, Sanca tried to let the ball go through to Townsend rather than putting his boot through it and the ‘keeper just got there in time, copping a heavy blow in the process.

County continued to cause themselves problems with a pair of mistakes by Bennett going unpunished by the Ammies, the second thanks to a timely sliding challenge by Sanca in the box in the 38th minute.

The final chance of the half came when Townsend failed to gather a corner and Curtis Tilt slammed at goal for Salford only for midfielder Bryn Morris to rush out from the line to block.

It was hardly the most rip-roaring of halves and it was low-key stuff after the resumption due to lengthy stoppages for Salford’s Connor McLennan, who went off, and Bennett, who continued.

Salford were looking the more likely but then County went close after 61 minutes when Bogle won a free-kick and then took it, curling an effort from 25 metres that clipped the top of the bar.

That was followed by a timely intervention by Bennett to deny Salford’s Ryan Watson and that was the captain’s last act.

He went off along with Bondswell with Palmer-Houlden and Charsley on, Evans going back to the left flank.

Salford should have hit the front after 67 minutes when Matt Baker became the latest home defender to be caught in possession but Kelly Nmai failed to make the most of a two-on-one and County scrambled back.

Coughlan made two changes for the closing stages, the first through choice with Kiban Rai replacing Jephcott before Bogle limped off and Offrande Zanzala came on.

Townsend had to be alert to palm away a Callum Hendry curler after a Sanca mistake before Salford brought on top scorer, and giant, Smith for the last eight minutes.

He nodded against the post in added time but the Exiles didn’t make the most of that escape.

Luamba burst down the right flank, hit the woodwork and them Smith slammed in the rebound to get what, in truth, Salford deserved.

County: Townsend, Bright, Baker, Sanca, Jameson, Bondswell (Charsley 63, Bennett (captain, Charsley 63), Morris, Evans, Jephcott (Rai 69), Bogle (Zanzala 75).

Yellow: Jameson, Morris.

Salford scorer: Smith.

Referee: Ed Duckworth.

Attendance: 4,423 (137 Salford)