MATCH REPORT: Late leveller earns Newport County a first leg draw against much-improved Mansfield Town

Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX.com; Football; Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final; Newport County v Mansfield Town; 9/5/2019; KO 19.45; Rodney Parade; copyright picture; Howard Roe/AHPIX.com; Mansfield's CJ Hamilton celebrates the opener at Newport
Picture by Gareth Williams/AHPIX.com; Football; Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final; Newport County v Mansfield Town; 9/5/2019; KO 19.45; Rodney Parade; copyright picture; Howard Roe/AHPIX.com; Mansfield's CJ Hamilton celebrates the opener at Newport

Padraig Amond’s late equaliser denied Mansfield an advantage after a tense League Two play-off semi-final first leg ended 1-1 at Newport County tonight.

CJ Hamilton’s fine first half strike was cancelled out by Amond’s late leveller.

Conrad Logan, who had earlier made two fine saves, conceded a late penalty with Amond smashing home the rebound after his spot-kick was saved.

So David Flitcroft’s side will head back to the One Call Stadium all square on Sunday (6pm), trying to secure the club’s first ever promotion via the play-offs.

The Stags were cruelly denied automatic promotion after their last-day defeat at MK Dons on Saturday.

It was a frantic opening 90 minutes to their play-off double header at Rodney Parade with Hamilton opened the scoring in the 12th minute.

Jacob Mellis found the charging Hamilton on the left hand side before the 24-year-old powerfully fired his left-footed effort from an acute angle into the roof of the net.

Veteran shot-stopper Logan pulled off some fine saves to maintain the visitor’s lead.

On the half-hour mark Mellis should have done better after worming his way between two defenders to get into the box, but he could only fire over.

Down the other end Logan pulled off a fantastic point-blank stop to keep out Jamille Matt’s header.

It should have been two minutes after the restart when Walker rounded Joe Day before failing to convert.

Logan then had to have his wits about him once again to produce a super save to keep out Padraig Amond.

Just after the hour Walker could only fire straight at Day after controlling the ball well with his chest.

Newport seemingly levelled before the linesman rightly ruled it out for offside on 64 minutes.

Logan once again frustrated Matt with a full-length diving save after the forward knocked the ball down and let rip from outside the box - with Robbie Willmott offside when he turned home the rebound.

Mellis almost made it two, but Day did well to keep out his deflected effort.

Then disaster struck for Stags on 83 minutes when a Day goal-kick was knocked on, with Logan taking out the chasing Azeez - who was going away from goal.

Logan redeemed himself by saving Amond’s spot kick, but the rebound went straight back to the striker to level.

But there were late scares for Stags as Azeez pounced on a Malvind Benning mistake in the dying embers, with Logan averting the danger, then Ben Taylor made a great last-ditch block to keep the tie level from Labadie’s shot.

NEWPORT COUNTY: Day, Poole, Demetriou, O’Brien, Willmott, Dolan (Azeez, 58), Sheehan, Bennett (Labadie, 72), Butler, Amond (Crofts, 84), Matt. Subs not used: Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Bakinson, McKirdy.

MANSFIELD TOWN: Logan, Sweeney, Pearce, Turner, MacDonald, Mellis, Bishop, Jones, Hamilton, Rose (Benning, 77), Walker. Subs not used: J. Smith, Khan, Atkinson, Ajose, Grant, A. Smith.

REFEREE: Matt Donohue of Manchester.