United had to settle for a point but remain top of the table after a 0-0 draw with Newport County tonight. The U's had the better chances in a stop-start 90 minutes but could find no way through a well-organised Newport side that have settled quickly to life in the Football League.
United carved out several golden opportunities in the first half without taking any. The best two came in the first six minutes. First, Michael Raynes prodded wide from five yards out after a Dave Kitson knock down, then James Constable got the ball stuck under his feet and could only clip the ball into the arms of visiting keeper Lenny Pidgeley when granted the freedom of the penalty area by a mix-up in the County defence.
With young Josh Ruffels making a solid first league start on the left of midfield, United had a decent tempo to their play as Newport tried to slow the game down and prevent another storming start as United had made in their previous game at home to Morecambe. Constable flicked a 33rd-minute effort just wide of the left-hand post from a David Hunt free-kick but otherwise the game had settled into an absorbing midfield battle where Danny Rose and Adam Chapman tried to scheme the demise of their former clubs.
Newport had been held at arm's length while United had created four gilt-edged chances in the first 45 minutes with Constable back-heading another effort over the top after 36 minutes.
The league new boys will have been pleased to take the sting out of the league leaders and the first 15 minutes if the second half continued in the same vein with The U's on the front foot and the visitors digging in to frustrate them. Their main threat came from set pieces and long throws but the Yellow back line has conceded fewer goals than any other defence in League 2 and were rarely unsettled.
David Hunt curled a free-kick a foot the wrong side of the left-hand post before Newport's best effort of the night saw Ismail Yakubu nod a looping effort at goal from a corner and force Ryan Clarke to make the first save of his 200th start for the club.
The fans sang their hearts out but couldn't inspire their side to a winner despite late pressure and five minutes of added time. Newport might have nicked it in the 85th minute when Christian Jolley grazed the bar with a shot from 20 yards but a draw was probably the right result for both sides.
United now head for Fleetwood, another of their promotion rivals. Nothing wrong with the attitude or commitment in this game, just the finishing touch missing for once.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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