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Salford City were cruelly denied a win against league leaders Newport County after a controversial late penalty.

A much improved Ammies took the lead late in the first half when Tom Clarke headed his first goal since joining from Preston North End in the summer.

It could have been a larger margin for Salford were it not for visiting goalkeeper Nick Townsend, who saved an Ian Henderson penalty attempt in the second half.

However in stoppage time a couple of Newport players went down in the area and after some hesitation and confusion referee Ross Joyce awarded a penalty which Josh Sheehan converted.

Manager Richie Wellens was infuriated by the decision which means Salford drop to ninth instead of moving up to sixth, but he was encouraged by the best performance from the team since his arrival in November.

“[It’s] bittersweet really because on the outside I’m pleased with the amount of chances we created, we could have had a lot of goals tonight.

“[I’m] really pleased with our attitude and intent in our press, I thought that was really good, people wanted to do the nitty gritty and get in peoples’ faces and I think we totally nullified them from playing.

“But on the inside I’m raging because it’s a shocking decision.”

In contrast to Saturday’s goalless draw with Cheltenham, Salford peppered the Newport goal with shots. Brandon Thomas-Asante and James Wilson were two of three changes Wellens made, and both were denied by Townsend on multiple occasions in the first half. 

The league ever-present was also on hand in the second half, diving to his right to keep out Henderson’s spot kick before a quick double save from Thomas-Asante and Clarke preceded Wilson hitting the post.

“Their goalkeeper was outstanding, Brandon on another day could have had two or three. Their goalkeeper pulled off some really good saves, pulled off a good save from Ash Hunter twice, and obviously Hendo has missed a penalty. 

“Sometimes in a game you can feel the way the game’s going and I didn’t think we was in any danger.”

The Ammies maintain their unbeaten league record at home, and travel to Harrogate Town on Saturday for the last game before Christmas.

Read what goalscorer Tom Clarke had to say after the game.

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