With Jay Conroy absent on trial at Mansfield and Micky Woolner sidelined with a hamstring injury, Dave Anderson was forced to shuffle his squad once more. He stuck with the 4-4-2 formation, as Antony Howard pushed out to right back, with Mark Cooper making his first team debut at centre-back alongside captain Steve Butler. Ryan Gray started at left-midfield, with Rob Ursell on the right and Chris Gell restored to the centre of the park alongside Jon-Barrie Bates.
And Gray was in action as early as the first minute, swinging in a dangerous cross which narrowly eluded both strikers. Chris Gell fired goalwards as it dropped on the edge of the box and it appeared to strike a defender?s arm as he blocked it, but the referee was unmoved by the protests.
Ursell matched his counterpart?s crossing feat from the other wing, and a clever flicked header from Richard Butler saw McCormack scrambling back to tip the ball over the bar. Howard?s header from the corner was blocked, but disaster nearly struck as Newport cleared quickly. With Greening behind him, Mark Jones sold Jake Cole woefully short with a scuffed backpass and the Newport striker nipped in to squeeze a shot past a stranded Cole. Jones and Cole looked on, relieved, as it trickled agonisingly just wide of the far post.
Greening?s strike partner Dedegbe then turned Steve Butler on the edge of the box, but Cooper came across to block his shot with a slide-tackle. Gradually Wimbledon began to exert more control over the midfield, but the ball seemed to stick at Richard Butler?s feet once or twice in dangerous situations.
Mark Jones came forward on a marauding run and sent another dangerous cross into the box. Richard Butler?s header was cleared, but Bates won the ball and sent it back into the area for Randall. He fell to the ground under a hefty home challenge, but once more the referee was unmoved by the Wimbledon protests. He remained equally unmoved moments later, when the third appeal for handball against the home side in their box went unrewarded.
Two minutes later, the Dons were in front. One Gray corner was blocked behind, but the second found its way into the net via a combination of the heads of Steve Butler and Steve Leigh.
A second nearly followed immediately afterwards. First Gell sent a low shot just wide from the edge of the box and then Richard Butler was totally free in the area to run onto a Howard cross, but McCormack got down to save a slightly weak header. Wright then found some space in the Dons area, but his eventual cross was too high for Greening.
Wimbledon enjoyed the majority of possession from then until half-time, but were unable to carve out many more clear-cut chances. As half-time loomed, Howard found himself free at the back post from a free-kick, but as he hammered the ball goalwards Olly Fleming came across to block the shot. The resultant corner was cleared. At the other end, yet another dubious backpass nearly caught out Cole as he tried to play it off an attacker?s shins for a goal-kick on the byline, but he was able to clear the ball at the second attempt.
And the Dons stayed on the attack as the second half got underway. Randall sent a chip over McCormack from the edge of the box inside two minutes, but the goalkeeper just got back to tip the ball onto the bar. Dedegbe then sent a shot well wide from distance for Newport.
With 53 minutes gone, you might charitably assume the Dons defence wanted to make things more interesting. Whatever the reason, they parted like the red sea and presented Simon Pilcher with the freedom of the penalty box. Perhaps startled by quite how much space and time he had, the Newport midfielder took three touches and Cole got down smartly to block his shot.
Gray then won the ball on the edge of the Newport area, but hammered his shot over the bar. But the second Dons goal was not long in coming. Ursell laid the ball up to Butler just inside the penalty area, but with his back to goal and a defender in close attendance he still had it all to do. The blond frontman is in a rich vein at the moment and turned swiftly to earn himself half a yard and send a quick shot past McCormack?s dive for an excellent goal.
Newport didn?t waste any time coming back at the Dons, and were awarded a freekick after Greening and Dedegbe had been blocked at the last by some dogged defending. It was blocked and two further corners were eventually scrambled away. But on 66 minutes the home side pulled one back. Greening took the ball up the right wing and his cross found Pilcher free level with the penalty spot. This time he showed excellent composure to send a low shot in off the post for the first goal Cole has conceded since arriving at the club on loan.
McCormack then tipped a swerving drive from Ursell onto the bar as Wimbledon looked to restore their two goal advantage. Butler headed the rebound over. But Newport were buoyed by Pilcher?s fine strike and enjoyed more of the play than they had hitherto as the game reached the final stages. 16-year-old striker Michael McEnery was introduced for a defender as Newport went all out for the equaliser. The new-look Dons defence looked shaky at times, but seemed to be weathering the storm adequately enough.
The Dons then exerted some more pressure of their own and it took two smart saves from McCormack to keep his side in it. First he denied Richard Butler a second with a smart block as the Dons striker sent an Ursell free-kick goalwards with a acrobatic overhead kick. Then he stepped out well to save from Randall in a goalmouth scramble and the rebound was hoofed away from the predatory Butler.