Newport County recorded back-to-back 1-1 draws to bring a steady end to their festive schedule, with the most recent of which being a share of the spoils at the VBS Community Stadium against Sutton United, but the visitors were extremely close to taking all three points.
The Exiles took the lead in the contest courtesy of a second-half strike from Shane McLoughlin – assisted by James Waite – but there was a twist in the New Year’s Day tale in the final moments, when Tope Fadahunsi bagged a 91st-minute equaliser for Jason Goodliffe’s men.
Graham Coughlan’s side currently sit 18th in the League Two standings having collected 31 points from their opening 26 matches, meaning County are 13 points ahead of Sutton in 23rd and just eight points behind seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon, highlighting the competitiveness of the division.
Despite their lowly league position, the Exiles have fared reasonably well at their Rodney Parade home so far in 2023-24, losing just two of their 13 fourth-tier matches in front of their own supporters, with the last league defeat at home coming on October 7 against Harrogate Town.
Eastleigh booked their place in this year’s third round of the FA Cup after one of the standout performances in round two, beating former Premier League club Reading at Silverlake Stadium, sending a 5,000-strong crowd in Hampshire into hysterics at the full-time whistle.
Paul McCallum opened the scoring for the Spitfires in the 22nd minute against the Royals of Berkshire, but they looked to have forced a replay when 22-year-old Femi Azeez found a late equaliser, although talisman McCallum netted his second of the contest in added time to knock out Ruben Selles’s charges.
Since that third-round success against Reading, Eastleigh have been kicked out of the FA Trophy by high-flyers Aldershot Town and collected seven points from four games in the National League, with Richard Hill’s side sharing the spoils with Dagenham & Redbridge following an eight-goal thriller on New Year’s Day.
Spitfires sit 11th in the National League standings – three points behind FC Halifax Town in the lowest of the relegation places, meaning that Saturday’s visitors to Rodney Parade are one of the lowest-ranked outfits remaining in the competition
After earning an assist off the bench against Sutton on New Year’s Day, Newport could bring midfielder Waite into their starting XI, potentially at the expense of Irishman Harry Charsley.County were relatively solid against
the fourth-tier strugglers despite conceding late on, meaning Ryan Delaney, James Clarke and Matthew Baker should continue as the centre-back trio.Following the third-round triumph over Reading, Eastleigh are expected to revert to the side which fared so well against
third-tier opposition, so McCallum and Scott Quigley should start in attack.Welsh enforcer Jake Taylor was taken off before the hour mark against the Royals but should keep his spot alongside Christopher Maguire and Nigel Atangana in the engine room for this one.