James Clarke came back to haunt his old club as he headed home three minutes from time to earn Newport County a much-needed victory over Walsall at Rodney Parade.

Signed in the summer by the Exiles, Clarke rose high to meet Cameron Norman’s pin-point cross in the 87th minute and notch his first goal for his new club.

Michael Flynn backed up his post-match words after the 1-0 midweek home defeat to Northampton Town by making eight changes to his side. The only survivors were Micky Demetriou, Cameron Norman and Aneurin Livermore.

Walsall arrived without the former County skipper Joss Labadie and sat off County for most of the first half and allowed them to play the ball around the pitch in the way they had so miserably failed to do four days earlier.

The home side totally dominated possession and territory and got their just rewards in the ninth minute when they converted the first corner of the game into a goal for Demetriou. Matty Dolan swung the ball in from the left to the far post and it was headed back into the danger zone by Norman.

It turned into a game of pin-ball on the edge of the Walsall six-yard box until Demetriou stamped his authority on proceedings and put the ball into the back of the net. It was no less than the home side deserved and they should have added to their lead.

Dolan struck a 25-yard free kick inches over the bar, Dom Telford pinched the ball on the edge of the area and then fired into the side-netting and the incessant pressure should have produced more for the Exiles.

When the golden chance came, courtesy of a penalty awarded when Demetriou was hauled down on the penalty spot as he tried to reach a Norman cross, the home side blew it.

Up stepped the usually reliable Dolan, but Walsall keeper Carl Rushworth guessed correctly and saved diving full length to his right.

As if that wasn’t a bitter enough pill to swallow on the stroke of half-time, in the third minute of added time the visitors conjured up a goal with almost their first meaningful attack.

County lost the ball just inside their own half and the game’s outstanding player, Emmanuel Osadebe, picked up the pieces and drove towards the County box.

He laid the ball off to Tyrese Shade wide on the left and he cut inside and hammered it past the stunned Nick Townsend to level the scores.

Walsall arrived unbeaten in their last four games in all competitions, and in their last four league outings, and showed glimpses of their recent form in a much-better second half. They changed tack and pressed forward continuously after the break.

All of a sudden, the game was free-flowing from both sides and the better chances fell to the visitors. Osabede robbed Dolan of possession as he tried to break out of the home area and the end result was a ricochet that landed on the County crossbar before falling to safety.

The lively Telford forced Rushworth into another great save in the 71st minute and did the same six minutes from time with a left-foot screamer