Mike Flynn heaped praise on his whole Newport County AFC squad after what he felt was the side’s best performance of the season so far in the 0-0 draw with Lincoln City.
The Exiles had to do it the hard way at Rodney Parade in order to get a deserved point from the encounter, after spending 35 minutes of the game with 10 men.
That came after Mark O’Brien was dismissed for a late challenge on Lincoln striker Matt Green, with the Irishman mistiming his tackle.
But before that decisive incident, the Exiles were more than a match for their opponents.
Shawn McCoulsky came agonisingly close to adding to his 10 goals already this term in the first half-hour, although dragged both shots narrowly wide when trying to spin his marker.
But after O’Brien’s sending off, County had to defend resolutely to ensure they took a point from the game.
Sam Habergham and Matt Rhead both came close, before Joe Day made one of the saves of the season to deny away captain Luke Waterfall.
The defender’s header from a corner looked destined for the bottom left-hand side, only for Day to get a hand to it, as the Exiles ground out a deserved point at Rodney Parade.
A draw means County will spend Christmas Day in 11th position in the League Two table, just two points off the play-off places, and Flynn was extremely pleased with the output from his squad throughout the entirety of the game.
He affirmed: “I’m very happy because I thought that was our best performance of the season.
“I thought we were the better team with ten men, certainly the better team first-half, and that’s what these players are about.
“They are good players, they work really hard for each other and never know when they are beaten.
“They really were outstanding today.”
A draw means that County end 2017 at Rodney Parade in the same manner as they started it, after getting a 1-1 draw with Colchester United in the opening fixture this year on 14th January.
In-fact, County picked up 37 points from the 23 games in South Wales during 2017 and Flynn was adamant that his side were more than worthy of one against the Imps.
He added: “When you have to play with ten men for 35 minutes then I think I would have taken a draw all day long.
“But like I said, I still thought we were the better team with 10 men playing against a very good Lincoln team.
“They made it tough for us, but I can’t say it enough, the boys were outstanding and I am so proud of them.
“I thought we were excellent today. We were the better team all afternoon and were excellent.”
And while O’Brien’s sending off evidently affected the game somewhat, Flynn wouldn’t be drawn on the incident excessively post-match.
“I didn’t think it was a sending off,” he confirmed.
“I thought it was a foul and a yellow card because he was so far away from goal.
“Mark hasn’t gone in with two feet, so it was a yellow card at best for me.”
Joe Day’s performance came in for praise post-match after some impressive saves.
The County shot-stopper thwarted all of Lincoln’s five shots on target and was duly rewarded for his display by winning the man-of-the-match poll on Twitter.
And Flynn was ecstatic about the overall performance of his goalkeeper post-match.
“He made two great saves,” he said.
“But to be honest that’s all they created really.
“I think Shawn should have scored in the first-half with the one that went just past the post plus a few other chances that we created.
“But I would have taken 0-0 after 60 minutes.”
The only concern for the Exiles during the game was the injury sustained early-on by Ben Tozer.
The midfielder went down within the opening five minutes after coming off worse in an aerial duel and was swiftly withdrawn after treatment from the physio’s.
But Flynn was optimistic post-match that Tozer would be back available for County’s trip to Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday.
He confirmed: “He had an elbow into the top of the gluet (hip) and it stopped him from running.
“I hope he has an uncomfortable sleep with it tonight so that he will be fine for Boxing Day.”
Flynn elected to name an unchanged line-up for the match following the stoppage time winner at Cambridge United last weekend.
That meant the only change came on the substitutes bench, as Momodou Touray came in for Sean Rigg.
And Flynn confirmed that Rigg was missing from the matchday squad due to his own injury problems.
“Sean is injured,” he continued.
“He’s got a tight hip-flexor. I don’t know much more than that if I’m honest because I didn’t realise how bad it was until this week.”
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