A minutes applause was observed before kick off in memory of Edinburgh and it was soon followed by Orient cheers. The O’s raced into the lead inside 80 seconds; Ruel Sotiriou who scored his first Football League goal on Boxing Day, wasted no time adding a second – flicking a looping header into the top corner after meeting Josh Wright’s in swinging free kick.
Orient threatened to make the Exiles pay in the early moments and could have had a second five minutes in. Lee Angol will have been frustrated to fire over first time after Dan Happe found the forward in the middle of the area.
As a spectacle, the atmosphere in Rodney Parade was superb throughout with both sets of fans cheering on their players.
Newport has their first sniff on goal 10 minutes into the first half. Sam Sargeant could only punch a cross back into danger whilst under pressure, presenting George Nurse with a chance to take aim but his strike was heroically blocked by Marvin Ekpiteta.
Sotiriou led a counter down the other end, driving through the middle before seeking out Jordan Maguire-Drew in the area, who was taken down, but Referee Lee Swabey waved away the appeal.
The tempo slowed after the opening 20 minutes, with both teams taking the opportunity to gather themselves after a frantic start. Jamille Matt glanced a header towards goal but his attempt lacked the power needed to beat Sargeant.
The Exiles went close again through Josh Sheehan, who fired narrowly wide from a central free kick after Dan Happe was cautioned for bringing down former O Tristan Abrahams.
Home pressure continued as the clock ticked towards the break, though Orient defended valiantly to keep a hold of their lead going into half time.
At the interval, Orient and Newport legend Justin Edinburgh was posthumously inducted into County’s Hall of Fame. Another minute’s applause was observed on the 50th minute in honour of our late Head Coach, who would have celebrated his 50th birthday on the 18th of December.
Newport started the second half in the same manner they finished the first, but failed to create a clear-cut opportunity. A route one approach from the home team required a resolute display from the Orient XI, who spent long spells in their own box defending crosses from all angles.
67 minutes on the clock, the O’s came their closest to doubling their advantage. A deep free-kick from Jordan Maguire-Drew was met by Happe’s head and on its path to goal was deflected onto the side of the post and out for a corner.
James Brophy was introduced with little over a quarter of the game to play in place of Maguire-Drew, who worked tirelessly throughout the game.
Abrahams wound up a free kick from the edge of the area, but blazed over, much to the displeasure of the Welsh faithful who were beginning to feel anxious as the game entered its final few moments.
Nerves were calmed as substitute Padraig Amond levelled the game with a poacher’s finish. The ball pinged around the area before falling kindly for the number nine to rifle his side level from close range.
Newport continued to come forward in the final minutes and Captain Joss Labadie skewed over from the edge of the box, with time and space to do better.
The fourth official signalled there would be five minutes of added time, in which Craig Clay and Lee Angol both came close to nicking a winner. Clay’s 18-yard drive deflected a whisker wide and behind for a corner. The resulting set piece was curled in by Wright, but Lee Angol could only flick a header over.
The ref called time on the match, with Orient heading back to London with a well-earned point.
ORIENT: Sargeant, Judd, Turley, Ekpiteta, Happe, Wright, Clay, Marsh, Maguire-Drew (Brophy 70”), Angol, Sotiriou
SUBS: Janata, Gorman, Coulson, Dayton, Harrold, Kyprianou
BOOKED: Happe 22” Ekpiteta 38” Maguire-Drew 60” Clay 77” Sotiriou 83”
GOALS: Sotiriou 2”
NEWPORT: King, Haynes (Amond 64”), Labadie, Sheehan, Matt, McNamara, Abrahams, Nurse, Bennett, Inniss (Poleon 79”), Demetriou
SUBS: Townsend, Dolan, Maloney, Jefferies
BOOKED: McNamara 83″
GOALS: Amond 81”
REF: Lee Swabey ATT: 4,437 – 453 away