PROMOTION rivals Newport ended Mansfield Town’s winning run with two second half goals on a gluepot of a pitch at Rodney Parade last night.
The in-form Stags had won four away games on the bounce and also triumphed in their last four matches - as well as scoring 13 goals in their last two matches.
They also knew that a win against the stuttering Welsh side, who had won just once in five games, would see them leapfrog their opponents into the play-off spots.
However, it wasn’t to be.
The Exiles had two first half penalty calls turned down and Luke Jones also had to head off his goal line as the sides went in all square at half-time.
But, after home keeper Lenny Pidgeley had denied Lee Stevenson after the break, Newport did take the lead when their third penalty appeal on 66 minutes was given and Andy Sandell netted, and Christian Jolley’s solo goal on the break 12 minutes later.
It completed a double for the Welsh side after their 4-3 win at the One Call Stadium on the opening day of the season.
The pitch was in a terrible condition with various cut-up and wet patches and from some early bobbled it was clear it could play a major part in the evening’s incidents.
The first eight minutes were scrappy in the extreme, summed up by Jolley having the first attempt on goal and slicing it so wide it ended up as a throw-in.
But on nine minutes the home side were calling in vain for a penalty when they felt Beevers had nudged Crow in the back to prevent him getting a head onto a Pipe cross.
A Beevers throw won Stags the game’s first corner on 13 minutes which Pidgeley confidently claimed.
Amid a torrid battle, with tackles flying in, it took 16 minutes for a move of quality as Crow chested down a pipe cross for Donelly to lash over from 16 yards for the Welshmen.
Dempster did well to get a block in a Yakubu shot which earned the Exiles their first corner which the visitors cleared.
Stags’ best move to far saw them string six or seven passes together before Jones teed up Murray for a 25 yard shot over the bar with 25 minutes elapsed of a strength-sapping contest.
Crow carved something out of nothing when Dempster tried to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick and the ex-Notts County striker managed to stretch out a foot to put it in front of goal, the visitors managing to clear their lines.
Marriott was down at his near post to make a routine save from Crow’s angled drive on 28 minutes.
A minute later Newport almost broke through as Marriott didn’t get near a far post cross where Sandell got the ball on target past the keeper only to see Jones make a fine header off the line.
Yakubu was booked for repeated fouling on 32 minutes after his body check on Daniel proved a misdemeanor too far.
On 33 minutes Jones met a Jennings free kick with a header straight at Pidgeley.
Two minutes later the home side were again aggrieved with the officials as Crow went down under contact from Jones in the box, again nothing being given.
On 40 minutes Sandell dipped a 20 yard free kick just over the bar for Newport.
From another Mansfield free kick Jones got another header on target at Pidgeley, taking a bang in the face for his troubles.
Jennings and Pipe were lectured, Jennings for a wild lunge that missed the full back and Pipe for then squaring up to him.
In stoppage time Sandell’s 30 yard free kick bounced through a crowd of players into Marriott’s arms to end a scoreless but full-blooded first half.
Jones hacked the ball away from in front of his goal in the second minute after the restart from a dangerous left wing cross.
But on 52 minutes Stevenson guided a superb near post header on target from a Jennings corner which Pidgeley had to tip over.
When the second corner was cleared back to Jennings, the full back showed good skill to beat his man to make space in the box and see a shot deflect into the sidenetting.
Mansfield forced five corners in a lively first 12 minutes of the second half.
Then Jolley was only just over with a shot on the turn for the home side as we reached the hour mark without a goal.
Sandell tested Marriott with a low shot from 25 yards which was easy for the keeper to grab.
However, it was third time lucky for Newport on the penalty appeals and led to them taking a 66th minute lead.
The referee agreed that Jones’ challenge on Jolley in the box was a definite spot kick and Sandell stepped up to give Marriott no chance with a finish just inside the post.
Stags sent on Rhead for Briscoe with 19 minutes remaining.
Crow dipped a finish inches over from a half clearance to him on the edge of the box.
But with 12 minutes left Jolley delivered the killer blow of a second goal for the home side.
Stags were caught outnumbered on the break as Jolley ran at them down the right. He had Crow to his left but chose instead to run into the box himself and whip a delightful finish across Marriott.
Jennings forced Pidgeley into a save with a curling free kick over the wall that almost crept in at the near post.
Jolley then looked set to score again on another break as Stags pushed everything forward, but this time Beevers made a superb tackle.
In four minutes of stoppage time Marriott also had to spread himself to deny sub Washington.