NEWPORT County AFC paid the price for one defensive lapse as they were edged out by promotion rivals Shrewsbury Town at Rodney Parade.

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s neat finish on 76 minutes after Darren Jones’ mistake proved very costly as the visitors nicked the three points to go top of League Two and condemned County to a third successive defeat.

County were desperate to bounce back after two horrible results on the road in the last fortnight – 4-0 at Cambridge United and 3-0 at Northampton Town – but it wasn’t to be despite a much improved performance.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes from the defeat at Sixfields with Max Porter and Aaron O’Connor replacing Shaun Jeffers and Rene Howe.

That meant a switch back to the tried and tested 5-3-2 formation after last week’s experiment with 3-4-3 and County immediately looked much more solid.

The first two goals at Northampton came from set-pieces but the Exiles defence comfortably dealt with two corners early on against the Shrews.

And Kevin Feely, who looked rusty last week, saw his confidence boosted by a meaty challenge on Robert Grant.

The addition of Porter in midfield helped Mark Byrne and Adam Chapman, who were outnumbered against the Cobblers.

And up front Edinburgh’s men looked much more of a threat with Chris Zebroski and Porter both seeing headers cleared off the line after six minutes.

O’Connor also looked sharp after dropping to the bench due to a bout of flu last week.

The club’s top scorer ran confidently at goal after visiting defender Connor Goldson misjudged the bounce of the ball but Mark Ellis read the situation well and came across to close before goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler blocked well with his shins.

O’Connor had the ball in the net on 34 minutes with a header from Byrne’s cross but the assistant’s flag saved Shrewsbury.

Zebroski then dragged his shot just wide of Leutwiler’s far post after being put through on goal by Byrne as the hosts continued to threaten.

By contrast Joe Day had a relatively quiet first half but he was forced into a neat save from Ryan Woods five minutes before the interval.

The second half saw very few clear cut chances for either side as the two promotion rivals cancelled each other out.

But a raucous Rodney Parade crowd created a red hot atmosphere on a cold and blustery afternoon.

An Andy Sandell corner threatened to creep in under the visitors’ bar but the impressive Leutwiler punched it clear on the line.

At the other end Shrews boss Micky Mellon thought his side should have been awarded a penalty when a Mikael Mandron shot appeared to hit a County hand in the box.

But the game appeared to be heading for a 0-0 draw before the inspired introduction of Akpa Akpro and the momentary lapse from Jones, one of the most consistent performers all season for the Exiles.

Fellow sub Keith Southern was sent off in a bad-tempered finale but the Shrews held on and County were left licking their wounds.

County: Day, Jackson, Yakubu, Jones, Feely, Sandell, Porter, Byrne (Minshull, 87), Chapman (Klukowski, 82), Zebroski (Storey, 79), O’Connor