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NEWPORT County AFC dropped a place in League Two after Colchester battled for a draw but fellow strugglers Hartlepool failed to close the gap.

The Exiles started Tuesday evening in 18th place but now drop beneath the Us, who shared the spoils with Salford City in Essex.

Colchester went behind when Conor McAleny nodded in from close range in the 49th minute but equalised when Fiacre Kelleher, one of their signings from a busy January, headed in an equaliser just past the hour.

The hosts had to settle for a share of the spoils and now lead County by a point, but have played two games more.

Hartlepool suffered the same fate as the Exiles in Carlisle when beaten 3-1 by the promotion hopefuls.

Paul Simpson’s side made a fast start as Morgan Feeney opened the scoring after six minutes at Brunton Park.

Striker Kristian Dennis struck for the fourth game in a row with his 16th and 17th goals of a fruitful campaign, either side of Josh Umerah’s calm finish for the visitors, to take the Cumbrians one point behind third-placed Northampton.

Pools remained two points above the drop zone after a third league defeat in five outings and they suffered a further blow when defender Rollin Menayese, from Newport, was stretchered off in added time.

County have a four-point lead over Pools with a game in hand.

Stockport and Bradford City drew 0-0 in the other midweek game with the clashes between AFC Wimbledon and Walsall, Crawley and Grimsby, and Swindon and Stevenage postponed due to frozen pitches.

Graham Coughlan’s side will also watch the weekend action with interest after their trip to Grimsby was postponed because of the Mariners’ FA Cup run.

Crawley host Salford, Harrogate entertain Sutton, bottom club Rochdale are at home to Carlisle, Gillingham go to Swindon and there is a key clash between Hartlepool and Colchester.

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