Mike Flynn says Newport County AFC have taken another step in the right direction after the 0-0 draw with Crawley Town at Rodney Parade.
In his 100th game in charge of the Exiles, Flynn celebrated the occasion with a point from a contest that yielded very few clear-cut opportunities for either side.
Padraig Amond had the best opportunities from a County perspective but constantly found Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris in inspired form, whilst Fraser Franks also flashed a header wide of the post in the second-half.
Crawley’s greatest threat came on the counter-attack and mainly in the first-half but they couldn’t create too much either, Joe McNerney, Panutche Camara and Mark Connolly giving Joe Day the simplest of jobs to hold their respective chances.
That meant County ended 2018 just like they did in 2017 by securing a hard-fought point – and Flynn was pleased with the response from his players to defeats in the previous three league matches.
“Of course it was [a step in the right direction,]” he affirmed.
“I’ve always said that we’ve got no divine right to think we should be beating people. Crawley are a good team, a strong team. Let’s not dress it up, we should have won the game but we didn’t.
“The main thing was there was no errors at the back and the boys kept going until the end.
"It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to make substitutions again because of injuries. We already had Antoine missing today because of illness so it’s just been one of those months or six weeks.
“It’s not an excuse because we have won in that period but I think it’s catching up with us.”
Antoine Semenyo and Joss Labadie were the two names missing from the team sheet before kick-off and Flynn may now have more walking wounded heading into the new year.
Matty Dolan and Andrew Crofts were both forced to withdraw in the second-half through injury – with Flynn able to provide an update on all those players post-match.
On Semenyo, he said: “Antoine has a chest infection. He came in on Friday and it wasn’t fair on him to play. He’s got some antibiotics, they usually take 2-3 days so hopefully he’ll be fine then.”
On the injuries, he added: “Two of the substitutions were forced and Tyler Forbes started to tire at the end – I thought Tyler did very well today after coming back in.
“Matty Dolan and Andrew Crofts were struggling – I’m more optimistic about Matty being okay than I am of Crofty.
“It’s so frustrating for Crofty because he looks after himself, not an ounce of fat on him, eats the right food as well.
“Unfortunately, he just can’t quite get going at the moment and believe me, he’s devastated. He’s put a lot of pride into coming and playing for Newport and he wants to show the fans what he can do.”
There was, however, much more positive news regarding Labadie who has definitely not suffered a recurrence of his ACL injury and should be back to return in the very near future.
Flynn confirmed: “We’ve had Joss’s scan results and there’s nothing structurally wrong which is great news – there’s just a bit of swelling from the original challenge.
“Very good news and hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later now.
“We don’t want to rush him back, but we’ll have a look and see how quickly it settles down.”
A shutout meant County kept their first clean sheet in League Two since the middle of November, with numerous other positives highlighted by Flynn.
“We kept a clean sheet and there are a few positives to build on,” he affirmed.
“I think we were the only team who tried to win it really, Crawley came for the counter attack and they wanted to stop their rot. That’s what they managed to do but we missed too many chances second-half.
“We’ve moved up a place and there are some positives to take out of it. Some of the chances we created were in the six-yard box and should have been scored, so it was frustrating.
“I thought we were very good defensively – it was just the other box where we weren’t ruthless.
“It’s a bit frustrating because I thought only one team wanted to win the game.”
Asked to reflect on 2018, Flynn admitted it had been an exceptional year for the side.
The giant killing of Leeds United in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round occurred right at the start, before the draw with Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur and subsequent replay at Wembley where the Exiles took 7,200 supporters.
A top-half finish in League Two was then secured back in May and the Exiles have been in and around the automatic promotion places for most of this opening part of the 2018/19 campaign.
Flynn reflected: “It’s been really good because look, we’re frustrated about being 10th in the league.
“Got a Premier League team in the FA Cup to come [in 2019,] and it’s a good sign that a South Wales club have beaten them today.
“We’ve got to manage expectations; the supporters are crucial for us because they make such a great noise here and they get behind the team.”
County don’t have too long to sit and reflect upon 2018 because they go again on New Year’s Day when making the trip to Stevenage – a team two places below County and one point behind.
Flynn commented: “Stevenage away will be another like this one because it’ll be a battle - they will be looking to beat us as well.
“It’ll be a tough game and they’ll be ready for us.”
ON THE ROAD | The Exiles start 2019 with a trip on New Year’s Day to Hertfordshire to take on Stevenage. Ticket details can be found here.
AFTER THAT | County face the mouth-watering prospect of hosting former Premier League Champions Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round. More ticket information can be found here.