NEWPORT County AFC were left to lament a poor start to the second half and an agonising end after being edged out 1-0 by Swindon Town in League Two.
The Exiles failed to build on their shock 2-1 win at previously unbeaten leaders Leyton Orient when they were downed by the Robins at the County Ground on Tuesday.
County produced a well-organised display in the first half but were on the back foot straight from the resumption and Wales Under-21 striker Luke Jephcott fired Swindon in front in the 50th minute.
The visitors almost burgled a point at the death when Lewis Collins fired past goalkeeper Sol Brynn only to be denied by a goalline clearance by Remeao Hutton.
Here are the talking points from Wiltshire…
County stole the spoils at the death last season when Finn Azaz forced Dion Conroy into an own goal and it was almost another dramatic finale at that same end.
Manager James Rowberry felt they should have scored but Collins did pretty much everything right, firing low and hard to hit the target only for Hutton to clear well.
It’s only with hindsight that you can suggest the substitute should have gone high with his shot… and then he would have been slammed had he not hit the target.
In the end it was a fair result and County have taken three points from two tough away games.
Orient justifiably feel that they should have got at least a draw because of their shot count at Brisbane Road while Swindon would have been livid had they let victory slip through their hands.
Three points is a steady return for a County team that is still struggling and it’s essential that they double that October tally when Rochdale visit Newport on Saturday.
We are only just in autumn but, after a must-not-lose against Grimsby, this weekend feels like a must-win.
County would have been pretty content in their changing room at half-time after looking pretty solid against a Swindon side that move the ball nicely.
They had also looked a threat down the right through the impressive Aaron Lewis – who is also comfortably the club’s best left-back – and had the best opening of the half.
Swindon played themselves into trouble after Omar Bogle cut off a passing lane but he was denied by goalkeeper Brynn.
There were shades of Stevenage away. It would have been a totally different game had the seven-goal striker scored.
County are not good chasers at the moment, which is a problem given that they have scored the first goal in just three of 16 games this season.
County have had some good wins this season but have had just one dominant performance when hammering Harrogate, who were awful, 4-0 in Yorkshire.
The past two games gives some reason for optimism in terms of the defensive organisation and it is no surprise that James Clarke and Mickey Demetriou have been at the heart of that.
However, the team just doesn’t seem to have a collective rhythm at the moment. Things just seem a little disjointed.
The tactic has clearly been to go more direct to Omar Bogle and Will Evans, which has worked to an extent with the Exiles getting more than their fair share of second balls.
Yet possession hasn’t been sticking and the ball hasn’t been popped around with accuracy and slick rotations; the contrast with Swindon was stark.
Midfield is a serious area of concern and one only hopes that Aaron Wildig will make a big difference once he gets back to full sharpness and is able to play a full 90.
Whether its down to confidence or personnel, County have gone from a probing side with dangerous ball carriers to one that goes long and tries to threaten from long throws.
County need to be on the front foot against Rochdale but won’t that to be at the expense of the discipline of the past two games.
Thierry Nevers would add some verve in attack after missing the last two games with a back injury while a return to a flat four of Norman- Clarke-Demetriou-Aaron Lewis has to be a serious consideration.
Who is behind them is also a conversation that Rowberry and goalkeeping coach Jim Hollman need to be having.
Nick Townsend had a very shaky night with the boot (which didn’t help the possession stat) and was at fault for the goal when he palmed Ronan Darcy’s shot back into the six-yard box for Jephcott.
There isn’t much to choose between Townsend and Joe Day, which makes the reaction to clangers all the more interesting.