Mike Flynn says the victory over Cambridge United that confirmed Newport County AFC ended their exploits at Rodney Parade for 2017/18 in the perfect manner will be dedicated to the fans for their tremendous support this season.
For the 29th and final time of the campaign, the Exiles stepped onto the Rodney Parade pitch with the same fight and determination as the first game way back on August 26th and had a deserved advantage at the break.
Some of the passing on display from County was simply sublime, the side able to put together moves of 20+ passes with regular frequency in that opening half of football, although it was down to route one that yielded the opening goal of the contest on 26 minutes.
Ben Tozer’s lethal long-throw again caused problems in the opposition penalty area, this time Mark O’Brien rising highest to stab a pass into the path of centre-back partner Mickey Demetriou, who had the simplest of tasks to pass the ball home from little more than five yards.
That was the defender’s seventh goal of the season across all competitions and was just reward for a dominative first-half display from the Exiles, where had it not been for away goalkeeper Dimi Mitov then they may have had a healthier advantage through efforts from Tozer and Padraig Amond.
The Exiles were, however, able to extend their advantage despite the best efforts of Mitov in the Cambridge goal, as Frank Nouble ascended into double figures for the campaign just before the hour-mark.
Nouble was certainly intent on finishing the season at Rodney Parade just like he started it, scoring another world class goal, this one a delicately placed volley into the far-right corner after the attacker had been found unmarked in the area at an acute angle.
The visitors weren’t about to give up there, however, and they were clearly intent on maintaining their top-half position in the League 2 table when halving the deficit with just nine minutes remaining.
You would have to say that it was an intricately put together goal, the visitors able to play the ball through several phases before Billy Waters was able to pick out George Maris 25-yards out, who fired home a thumping effort into the bottom corner.
Despite the indication of four minutes additional time at the end of the contest, the U’s couldn’t muster any further opportunities against a stubborn County defence, meaning the side completed their exploits at Rodney Parade for the campaign with three successive home victories.
It was also the third time this season that the Exiles had come out on top against the U’s – following the same scoreline in the reverse fixture alongside a 2-0 success at Rodney Parade in the Emirates FA Cup.
The victory saw the Exiles move above both Cambridge and Colchester United and up to 11th, while a victory in the rearranged fixture with Chesterfield on Tuesday night could see the side rise as high as 9th ahead of the final game of the campaign.
And Flynn was delighted to sign off the home campaign by achieving all three points for the supporters.
He affirmed: “I wanted to give the fans a home win at the end of the season, so they can go away mostly happy.
“Like I’ve just said to them then [during the lap of honour post-match speech,] they have been fantastic for the whole of this season and that win was for them.”
The victory against Cambridge also sees the Exiles end the home campaign with three successive victories - following other 2-1 wins against Swindon Town and league champions Accrington Stanley earlier in the month.
That was just the second time this season that County have been able to win three successive league matches at home, having put that run together in September/October when defeating Cheltenham Town, Grimsby Town and Yeovil Town.
It means the Exiles finish the home campaign with 37 points out of a possible 69 – completing the season with a record of nine wins, 10 draws and four defeats from the 23 league fixtures.
County suffered defeat from both of their CheckaTrade Trophy matches at Rodney Parade, although beat higher league opposition in the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since 2001/02 with notable victories.
Cambridge were one of those sides to suffer defeat in the competition, while victories were also achieved against League 1 outfit Walsall and Championship side Leeds United.
That cup run culminated in a draw with Premier League opposition Tottenham Hotspur before defeat in the replay at Wembley, with their being no Carabao Cup matches at the stadium this campaign due to the ongoing pitch works that elapsed into the first few weeks of the season.
Asked to reflect on that home campaign which yielded a record home points haul since returning to the Football League, Flynn firmly believes that it will afford the side a platform to build on ahead of the next campaign.
“We’ve won three in a row now at home which is a good run of form,” he added.
“I think the boys were spot on today. At times, I think we’ve overachieved this season, so we have to make sure we do it again next season.
“I want to handle the expectations and it was just that we had a bad run of form around February/March. It’s difficult after an FA Cup run. It’s frustrating but good that we are finishing on a positive.
“If you’re asking me whether I would take a top-half finish and a good FA Cup run, then yes.
“That FA Cup run brought memories for life. Just looking at having Tottenham Hotspur at Rodney Parade, the red sky that we had that evening was a special occasion and I’m glad that I was in-charge for it.”
Nouble’s superb strike in the second-half saw the striker become the third player this season to move onto double figures in County colours, following similar tallies for Padraig Amond and Shawn McCoulsky.
Interestingly, it is the first time that Nouble has been able to hit 10 or more goals in a single campaign, with that goal twinned alongside his effort against Accrington on Tuesday seeing the striker score in successive games for the first time since joining the club.
And Flynn believes adding another goal to the collection was just reward for another positive display from Nouble.
“I thought he was very good today and scored a great goal,” he stated.
“We probably should have scored more and again, we have to cut out the silly mistakes we make.
“I’ve spoken to Josh [Sheehan] about tracking runners and we need to be clinical down the other end. Let’s be honest, we should have scored a lot more today.”
The victory leaves the Exiles on 63 points for the campaign, a statistic which is just two below the club’s best ever points tally since returning to the Football League.
County have the chance to break that record when they go again on Tuesday night against an already relegated Chesterfield side, although Flynn revealed post-match that he may be light on numbers for the game at the Proact Stadium.
Mark O’Brien had to be withdrawn at half-time through injury, while there were also problems for Matty Dolan and Frank Nouble which forced them off the pitch in the second-half.
And Flynn confirmed he may be missing the trio on Tuesday night.
He continued: “We’ve had to make three substitutions today and all were enforced through injuries.
“I don’t know what kind of side we will be able to have on Tuesday – it’s going to be a difficult one. But we will put out the best team we can, and we’ll give it our best go.
“Mark O’Brien has a problem with his toe, Frank was his hamstring and I think Matty Dolan was his ankle. All random injuries and we could have done without those injuries really - I thought it ruined our momentum in the second-half.”
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