Iron manager Russ Wilcox praised the character of his side after they returned home from Wales with a point.They earned a hard-fought draw in difficult circumstances against Newport County at Rodney Parade.
United struggled to find a first half rhythm on a bobbly pitch, and went into the break behind after Lee Minshull gave County a deserved lead midway through the opening period.
The Iron rallied after the restart, and goals from Paddy Madden and Dave Syers had appeared to set them en route to victory with just seven minutes remaining.
However, they were to be undone in the final minute when the dangerous Chris Zebroski reacted quickest to finish from close-range and salvage a draw for Newport.
Despite the late set-back, Wilcox told The Iron Player: “You don’t want to hide away from the disappointment, but the second half performance tells me everything about this group of players I’m working with.
“I’m very proud today because we were outstanding in the second half. The pitch is horrendous – it’s not a football league pitch in my eyes – but you get on with it. We did that at Accrington and in other games this season, and the lads have stuck together.
“We would have taken a point at half-time, but the disappointment [in not winning] shows how far the group has come.”
The home side appeared much more comfortable with the nature of the Rodney Parade turf in the opening period, opting for a direct approach which caused problems for the United defence.
That style of play saw the aerially dominant County profit by going into the interval ahead, and Wilcox admitted: “We’re a little disappointed with the first half as we were drawn into their game a little too much.
“Their game-plan [Newport’s] was good. They played for territory, for set-pieces, and when you have long throws and crosses coming in from everywhere on the pitch you’ve got to deal with it.
“We did that 99 per cent of the time. Unfortunately on two occasions it’s caught us, but overall I’m delighted with the players. At half-time part of me was disappointed, and part of me was pleased it was only 1-0.
“They put a lot of balls in our box, had a lot of possession, and made a lot of half-chances. We had to manage that period, and make sure we came in 1-0 down rather than two or three behind to give us an opportunity.
“It’s a really difficult place to come, even if they have lost their previous two. We touched on the fact they had conceded two late goals on Tuesday; they were 1-0 up and lost 2-1, so I was hoping it was going to be deja-vu when we stuck the second one away but it wasn’t to be.”
Having trailed at half-time while struggling to adjust to the playing conditions, many may have been writing off the Iron’s chances of taking anything from the game.
Yet they responded in superb fashion with a dogged second half performance, and Wilcox added: “It was a test, and a question of either feeling sorry for ourselves or rolling our sleeves up and showing what we are about.
“Tactically we stayed 4-4-2, but we had to pass the ball more, and had to take chances. We spoke about that. If we carried on how we had in the first half, playing back to front like they did, it would have played into their hands.
“Under difficult circumstances we got the ball down, and created two terrific opportunities which saw us score two fantastic goals. We’re disappointed we didn’t manage to see it out, but it tells me about the group."
See much more from Russ Wilcox, Paddy Madden and Sean McAllister on The Iron Player.