Town: Leutwiler, Grandison, Goldson (c), Knight-Percival, Clark (Vincent, 64), Wesolowski, Woods, Ellis, Vernon (Collins, 64), Akpa-Akpro (Griffith, 46), Mangan
Subs not used: Halstead, Lawrence, Gayle, Demetriou
Newport County: Day, Jones, Chapman, Minshull, Zebroski (O’Connor, 81), Willmott, Sandell (c), Hughes, Poole (Jackson, 68), Byrne, Pigott (Jolley, 65)
Subs not used: Pidgeley, Flynn, Klukowski, Collins
Referee: Darren Handley
Attendance: 4,904 (704 from Newport)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury’s perfect home record was ended by a resilient Newport County side this afternoon. It was by and large a disappointing and frustrating 90 minutes for the home faithful, with Town not really sparking to life until a late red card reduced the away side to ten men. They also met a goalkeeper in Joe Day who was on top of his game with two outstanding saves to earn his side a share of the spoils.
In the only change from the side that won 1-0 against Carlisle in midweek, Scott Vernon was recalled up front with James Collins taking his turn to sit amongst the substitutes.
Newport – wearing their away colours of red and white - got the game underway attacking the Salop Leisure Stand, with the Welshmen backed by good numbers at the opposite end of the Greenhous.
They started brightly too with Jayson Leutwiler having to go full length to tip Robbie Willmott’s piledriver over the crossbar in the first couple of minutes. The corner came to nothing but the volume in the away end went up a notch or two.
Vernon received a booking after seven minutes for a rash challenge that dumped Lee Minshull on the deck inside the centre circle, but the County midfielder was soon enough back on his feet.
Newport were really threatening in the opening spell of the game with Shrewsbury struggling to maintain possession for long enough periods. But they had a great chance after quarter of an hour when Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro played a delightful ball in behind the visitors defence. And although Andy Mangan’s lofted effort beat the on-rushing Day, it bounced wide of the right hand upright. It was Town’s only attempt on goal and might have handed them an undeserved lead had Mangan been a little more precise.
NKP threaded another pass through that split the Newport rearguard, but Day’s reading of the situation prevented Vernon from capitalising. This was much better from Salop with Newport spending a lot more time inside their own half.
Mangan’s free-kick heroics at Leicester weren’t to be repeated as he fired a 25 yard effort comfortably into Day’s midriff, and with the first third of the game completed, we still awaited the first goal.
It nearly came too just seconds past the half hour, when a great cross from Jermaine Grandison – Town’s most productive player – was powered towards the net by Akpa-Akpro’s head, only to be denied by perfect positioning from Day between the Newport sticks.
Justin Edinburgh’s side were still looking dangerous, particularly down the left flank, and looked on this evidence to be the best side yet to visit the Meadow this season.
Ryan Woods fizzed one just wide with Day struggling to get across, just as the fourth official held up the illuminated board for one additional minute, and the game was all square at the break.
Half-Time: Town 0 Newport County 0
Akpa-Akpro failed to return after the interval with recent capture Anthony Griffith introduced as his replacement.
There was a hearts-in-mouth moment for home fans when Andy Sandell’s flag kick eluded everyone in a packed six yard box, with no-one there on the far post to get a nick on the ball to turn it home.
Just like the first half, it was the away team doing the bulk of the pressing with Town’s normal fluency at home yet to kick-in.
Micky Mellon made a double change after 64 minutes with Collins coming on for Vernon, and Ashley Vincent taking the place of the largely ineffective Jordan Clark. Clark’s form for Shrews so far this season has been excellent but today was just one of those days for the former Barnsley man.
The home side had barely got going all afternoon but Day was called upon to make his first save of any note when he pushed away Grandison’s low shot with 20 minutes left. It got the Town supporters to their feet but they knew they would be in for a nervy ending with Newport proving a very tough nut to crack.
Vincent’s excellent low cross was diverted away from the danger area by ex-Town defender Darren Jones, but James Wesolowski failed to keep his shot down with what was a difficult chance in all fairness to the midfielder. And Woods’ enterprise from 30 yards saw the ball gently ripple the top of the netting on its way over Day’s crossbar.
Newport might have won the game with a bouncing ball in front of a desperate home defence who just about managed to clear their lines, with the away fans behind that goal getting ready to celebrate their side taking an 82nd minute lead.
There were a number of questionable tackles with a flutter of yellows shown, and there was a flashpoint after 84 minutes when Andrew Hughes was red carded for what looked like a bad challenge on Wesolowski. It brought players of both teams together and the referee sent the number 16 off to leave County needing to defend for their lives.
And they nearly caved in with two minutes to go when Vincent threw a head at a probing low cross inside the six yard box to surely nick the points. But Day somehow reacted to keep the ball out. All of a sudden, Town were a constant menace and the South Walians were hanging on.
The added on time shown at the end of the game was five minutes and the noise levels were almost at a crescendo as the Town fans in particular sensed a winner.
Collins headed NKP’s left wing delivery over and Grandison again put a curler on top of the netting as Shrews pushed on, and another brilliant Day save denied Collins right at the death as Town were forced to settle for a point.
Full-Time: Town 0 Newport County 0