EX-SWINDON Town player Ben Tozer hammered another nail into his former club’s League Two play-off hopes as Phil Brown’s men paid the price for an abject first-half display in Wales this afternoon.

Tozer, who scored the winner at the game between the two sides at the Energy Check County Ground in November, nodded home Newport County’s second goal on 35 minutes after striker Paddy Amond had sublimely given the home side the lead on the quarter-hour.

Substitute Paul Mullin’s second-half strike gave the visitors hope, but that was almost immediately extinguished as defender Rollin Menayese was shown a second yellow card to reduce Town to 10 men.

Town remain ninth despite the defeat but although the table shows they are just three points behind Mansfield in the final play-off spot in seventh, it is effectively four points with Town’s vastly inferior goal difference with three games remaining.

To add to the visiting team’s woes, defender Chris Hussey appeared to get involved in an altercation with a supporter as the teams left the field at the end of the match, Town boss Phil Brown confirming the incident would be investigated.

Town made just the one change from the midweek draw with Yeovil at the Energy Check County Ground, with on-loan Bristol Rovers man Rollin Menayese stepping into defence as skipper Olly Lancashire missed out, having limped out of the Glovers clash.

Marc Richards captained the side, with teenage middfielder Scott Twine retaining his place on the right of midfield.

Reice Charles-Cook was fit enough for a place on the bench, in place of Will Henry, in the only change among the substitutes.

Mansfield’s win at Chesterfield in the day’s early kick-off increased the need for the Wiltshire men to take victory in Wales, but despite a solid enough start, Town were struggling to contain a five-man County midfield, with former Town man Ben Tozer particularly prominent.

Twine won an early corner, but the away side carried little threat going forward and soon received a warning shot across the bows in the 12th minute as Tozer found himself in plenty of space on the edge of the box.

Although his shot was speculative, goalkeeper Stuart Moore had to watch it carefully over the top, but Town failed to heed the lesson.

Three minutes later, they paid the price and although the finish was glorious, Town still had plenty to ponder as County’s Padraig Amond started the celebrations.

Home skipper David Pipe had too much room and time to swerve a cross from the right to near the penalty spot and Town defence simply watched as Amond controlled the ball on his right thigh and in one movement guided it past Moore into the far corner.

The visitors were at least a yard off the pace, County – the team seemingly with nothing to play for – sharper in thought and snappier into tackles.

County defender Mickey Demetriou hooked clear under pressure at the other end, but Town were creating little tangible threat as boss Brown bellowed in frustration at his players from the touchline.

Town’s early efforts were summed up by Woolery blasting miles high and wide after the hosts had got into a muddle at the back and Twine had surged towards the edge of the box.

Woolery’s persistence then won possession on the right edge of the County box and an off-balance Twine was unlucky not to turn a sharp low ball towards goal.

Ten minutes before the break though, the dozing visitors were punished once again.

This time, Ben White had too much time to swing in a cross from the right and Tozer stooped to touch it beyond Moore and into the same far corner with his head.

It threatened to get messy for Town as Newport poured forward with confidence, although Twine nearly fashioned an opening for the away side as he got himself in front of the defence to meet Banks’ near-post low cross, but his shot was blocked clear.

As it was a thoroughly disjointed Swindon side were just relieved to get to half-time unscathed.

Brown rang the changes at the break, introducing McDermott and Mullin to the fray for Ben Purkiss and the ineffective Woolery and sent his team back out minutes ahead of the start of the second period, no doubt with a flea in their ears.

As at Crawley over Easter, the second-half performance level improved, Mullin sending a volley goalwards that Newport keeper Joe Day had to palm behind before Menayese picked up what would turn out to be a costly booking.

McDermott went close on 56 minutes as he controlled a loose ball at the edge of the box and volleyed on to the top of Day’s crossbar but County could have scored a third as Moore acrobatically palmed clear a header from another dangerous Tozer long throw.

Just after the midway point of the half, Town unexpectedly had a lifeline as it was County’s turn to switch off.

McDermott picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and floated over a cross. Mullin got there and claimed the touch beyond Day.

That kicked off a bizarre few minutes featuring a flurry of substitutions, chances and a red card.

Even the latter arrived in odd fashion as Menayese challenged for a cross at the far post with White, who crumpled in a heap. The Town defender was on his way back to the halfway line only for Breakspear, having assessed White, to call him back and brandish a second yellow to send him packing.

Brown had his head in his hands in the technical area again – and then once more as Town brought on Amine Linganzi for Twine, then saw Banks blast over from no more than five yards, having won the ball well at the back post.

The game then calmed a little before another ex-Town man Frank Nouble nearly took advantage of dreadful dallying at the back by Banks, but found Moore’s legs instead of the net.

Town continued to huff and puff but looked out on their feet and were nearly punished in the final moments as goalkeeper Moore came up for a Swindon corner, which was over-hit, allowing Tozer to advance over halfway and take aim from all of 45 yards, the ball bouncing agonisingly – for the home side – against a post before being cleared.

It didn’t matter. Town’s goose was cooked. In this game and quite possibly for the season.

SWINDON TOWN (4-4-2): Stuart Moore, Kyle Knoyle, Ben Purkiss (Donal McDermott 46), Rollin Menayese, Chris Hussey, James Dunne, Ollie Banks, Scott Twine (Amine Linganzi 69), Matt Taylor, Kaiyne Woolery (Paul Mullin 46), Marc Richards (captain).

Subs not used: Reice Charles-Cook, Timi Elsnik, Keshi Anderson, Ryan McGivern.

NEWPORT COUNTY (3-5-2): Joe Day, Mickey Demetriou, Scot Bennett, Ben White; Dan Butler, Ben Tozer, Matty Dolan, Robbie Willmott, David Pipe (Tyler Reid 82); (Frank Nouble 64), Padraig Amond.

Subs not used: James Bittner, Foulston, Momodou Touray, Josh Sheehan, Calaum Jahraldo-Martin.

Attendance: 3,911 (949).

Referee: Charles Breakspear.

Yellow cards: Town - Menayese, Dunne.

Red cards: Menayese.