WITH eight games remaining Newport County AFC have already matched last season’s points tally and put themselves back in charge of their own destiny in the race for a play-off place.

Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Plymouth Argyle took County to 58 points – the total they achieved after 46 games last season.

The first target for the campaign – to improve on their first season back in the Football League – is therefore within sight.

And the chances of the Exiles reaching their second target – a place in the League Two play-offs – were definitely boosted by a hard earned point at the home of one of their main promotion rivals.

Jimmy Dack’s men had to dig in and battle hard in the second half as the Pilgrims pushed and probed but some determined defending and another superb showing from goalkeeper Joe Day saw them through.

And with Stevenage losing at home to Dagenham & Redbridge the point was enough to lift both clubs up one place in the table.

County crept above the magic dotted line into seventh and Argyle are up to eighth, just a point off the play-offs.

Not that the frustrated Green Army were impressed with what they saw.

The boos from the home fans at half-time and especially after the final whistle were a mystery.

The least said about the lacklustre first half the better but by the end of the afternoon the Plymouth supporters had witnessed their side give everything in their efforts to find a winner.

For the visitors, however, the cat-calls and jeers were the signs of a job well done.

With a bit of luck Dack’s men could even have snatched all three points with substitute Chris Zebroski, who was also the subject of plenty of abuse from the crowd against his former club, a constant threat on the break.

The striker, who is battling the booze off the pitch, seemed to thrive on the boos at Home Park.

He dragged one shot wide when he could have squared but he never let the home defence rest for one minute.

Fellow sub Shaun Jeffers also failed to test home goalkeeper Luke McCormick when he really should have hit the target with his late chance.

But Day certainly had to be at his best to keep a second consecutive clean sheet, after Tuesday’s 1-0 home win over Luton Town, and a County victory would have been harsh on John Sheridan’s side.

Day was at full stretch to keep out a curled effort from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis just after the break and as time ticked by wave after wave of attacks crashed upon the rock-like Exiles stopper.

He was also ably assisted by Ismail Yakubu and Darren Jones, both carrying knocks and both putting their bodies on the line to repel the green tide.

Andy Sandell also impressed after moving inside to play alongside Yakubu and Jones, while Max Porter and Mark Byrne worked tirelessly to help out at the back.

And Yan Klukowski again deserves praise for filling in at left wing-back even if it is a role seemingly made for young David Tutonda, an unused substitute.

The home support were convinced that Reuben Reid should have been awarded a penalty after a physical tussle with County skipper Jones.

The referee penalised the Argyle striker, however, leading to chants of ‘you’re not fit to referee’ from the Home Park faithful.

And the sizable travelling contingent probably agreed when the official waved away appeals at the other end when Zebroski tumbled in the box.

Bobby Reid bamboozled Jones with a fabulous flick over his head and his well struck volley had Day worried before it flashed just wide of the post.

Another neat move from the hosts saw Anthony O’Connor, Reuben Reid and Holmes-Dennis combine to set up Lewis Alessandra but the front man’s curler was always rising over Day’s cross bar.

And Day did superbly as he rushed out to save from Reuben Reid, just getting his foot to the shot and deflecting it the right side of the post from County’s point of view.

That was Plymouth’s best chance and it was the moment they realised there was no way past Day.

Plymouth: McCormick, Mellor, Nelson, McHugh, Hartley, Holmes-Dennis, Lee (Banton, 82), O’Connor (Blizzard, 82), B. Reid, Alessandra, R. Reid

Subs not used: Bittner, Purrington, Norburn, Harvey, Brunt

Booked: Homes-Dennis

County: Day, Jackson, Yakubu, Jones, Sandell, Klukowski, Porter, Minshull (Chapman, 46), Byrne, Storey (Zebroski, 62), O’Connor (Jeffers, 73)

Subs not used: Stephens, Parker, Tutonda, Parselle

Booked: Sandell, Yakubu

Referee: Charles Breakspear

Attendance: 6,847 (521 County)