NEWPORT County fell out of the League Two play-off spots after failing to produce a grandstand finish at the Lamex.

The Exiles looked down and out at 2-0 after two headed goals from set-pieces; before Adam Chapman’s fine finish late on gave them heart.

The hosts were grateful to goalkeeper Chris Day for halting the Exiles in a frantic finish that also saw County sub Chris Zebroski sent off for a moment of madness when he smashed Dira Dembele, who proved the match winner.

It was a tough decision for caretaker boss Dack as to how to alter his team, if at all, following their home blank and subsequent defeat to Mansfield in midweek.

The Exiles have looked a different animal on the road but Dack still altered things from the outstanding triumph at Burton seven days previously, dropping Chris Zebroski to the bench with Robbie Willmott returning to action as an orthodox number ten, with Max Porter’s defensive work preferred to the industry of Lee Minshull.

County were looking for a ‘if it ain’t broke...’ sort of a display on the road again, but they were found wanting in a low quality first half where they were second best.

That’s no great compliment to the hosts, both sides toiling for an entire half an hour before the first chance, Ben Kennedy’s free kick missing the target as Newport struggled to look a threat on the counter.

However, they have benefitted in recent times from their solidity at the back and will be furious at the manner in which they went behind, Stevenage’s opening goal infinitely preventable at various different stages.

It actually came from Newport’s own corner, Mark Byrne’s inability to beat the first man creating a break for the hosts, which resulted in a corner. And the Exiles not only forgot how to attack a corner but how to defend one, Charlie Lee totally unmarked as he rose unopposed to head firmly past Joe Day.

It was harsh on County’s goalkeeper at least, Day having already saved brilliantly to deny Dean Parrett five minutes earlier after Adam Chapman turned over possession.

The Exiles were behind and that did at least lead to a reaction, Dack’s men on the front foot for the remainder of the half without looking like scoring, a dangerous ball across the box by Yan Klukowski missed by everyone their best opportunity to make inroads.

Klukowski was also unlucky not to get on the end of a Miles Storey cross in stoppage time, but Newport could hardly complain about being behind at the interval after a lacklustre display.

They looked more effective within seconds of the restart, Willmott volleying over the bar as the Exiles showed more purpose, especially as they returned a full five minutes before their hosts, presumably after some hairdryer treatment from Dack.

The response was clear when County fashioned two glorious chances within sixty seconds, but they squandered them both.

First Bira Dembele made a real mess of an attempted back pass and sent Storey free, but the Swindon loanee could only fire at Chris Day, who saved low to his right.

The Exiles repeated their trick within seconds, Storey pulling the ball back for Klukowski who appeared to have the goal at his mercy, but Dean Wells got the vital block and somehow deflected the ball wide.

It was the pivotal spell in the contest, the only time either side found any kind of dominance and the Exiles will have kicked themselves all the way back down the M4 for failing to capitalise.

Not only did they fail to score when they were dominant, but as soon as the contest evened out they conceded and again in a highly preventable manner.

In the first half it was a corner and in the second half a free kick that did for the Exiles, Bira Dembele able to head home as County again let themselves down with their marking.

This was never a contest where either side deserved to carve out such a lead but it was clear that the Exiles were highly unlikely to find a response to such an arrears.

They kept the effort levels high and missed a few late chances, Byrne firing at Day and sub Kevin Feely heading over as the Exiles showed that they’ll never lack for effort, even when their quality levels dip.

And that never say die attitude proved important on 87 minutes, Chapman smashing through a crowd at a corner to reduce the deficit.

They even created opportunities to snatch a leveller, Zebroski teeing up Byrne who fired straight at Day as the hosts somehow stood firm.

And Zebroski’s frustration boiled over in the final seconds, rightly sent off from smashing Dembele when already on a yellow card.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day, Henry, Okimo, Dembele, Wells, Pett, Lee, Walton, Parrett (Andrade 82), Kennedy (Bond 90), Beardsley (Keane 58) Subs not used: Beasant, Ashton, Johnson, Conlon

Booked: Wells

Newport County (4-2-2): Day, Jackson, Tutonda, Yakubu (Feely 53¬), Jones, Byrne, Porter (Minshull 76), Chapman, Klukowski (Zebroski 55), Willmott, Storey

Subs not used: Stephens, Sandell, Parker, Jeffers

Booked: Feely, Zebroski, Willmott

Sent off: Zebroski

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Attendance: 2941 (228 away)