Mike Flynn admitted his Newport County AFC players let the fans down after they suffered a 4-1 defeat to play-off rivals Forest Green Rovers at Rodney Parade.
The visitors were ahead inside three minutes thanks to George Williams’ free-kick. The 23-year old’s strike from 25 yards took a deflection off the County wall on its way through and nestled itself past a helpless Joe Day between the sticks.
A minute before half-time, Rovers doubled their advantage with a perfectly executed counter-attacking goal. A loose clearance fell to Joseph Mills wide left in their own half, he played in Williams then Reece Brown before Tahvon Campbell was found inside the area, the attacker cutback and curled home a delightful finish.
All was not lost for the Exiles and deep into the first-half added extras, Rovers goalkeeper James Montgomery erratically left his goal from a corner and caught Padraig Amond to gift County a penalty. The Irishman converted superbly by sending the shot stopper the wrong way.
A bright start after the restart showed County did have a route back into the contest, but the game was taken out of their reach in the space of 30 seconds around the 52nd minute.
Williams profited from David Pipe losing his footing on halfway to burst clear at goal, Dan Butler tracked back well but had no option other than to haul him to ground and received a straight red card.
To make matters worse, Williams stood back up confidently and rifled the resulting free-kick straight into the top corner from at least 35 yards.
The Welsh international brought up his hat-trick five minutes later with another superbly executed finish, this one a curling attempt into the bottom corner from distance after the visitors sustained the pressure and put together a nice passing move.
That left County unable to capitalise on all the sides occupying the top four places in the League Two table losing – and Flynn apologised for the performance at Rodney Parade.
“I was gutted for the fans today,” he affirmed.
“I genuinely am absolutely gutted for the fans because it’s Christmas, they spent their money to come here and we’ve played really poorly and let them down today.
“We changed some of the matchday warm-up preparations because we hadn’t been starting games right recently.
“It didn’t matter what we did [differently] because we started poorly. It’s simple things like block their runner off the kick-off, don’t give away cheap free-kicks – we know George Williams has got very good quality on his free-kicks.
“It takes a deflection and we’re 1-0 down after two and a half minutes again. It’s too much to do because we’re not good enough at the moment to keep coming from behind.
“The defending for the second goal was really, really poor from start to finish.
“But we then got back into the game, had the lifeline, and we went looking to start the second half positively.
“Then we go down to 10 men and Williams puts another free-kick into the top corner. Look, they absolutely dominated after that and if I’m honest, the saving graces were a. the players kept at it and b. there were no goals going in after the fourth.”
Between the first and second goals for the Nailsworth outfit, County were well on top of proceedings and had several chances to get back into the contest.
Tyreeq Bakinson saw a header well held by Montgomery, Amond also tested the Rovers goalkeeper with a header of his own, whilst Matty Dolan and Robbie Willmott weren’t too far away with attempts from distance.
Flynn continued: “It does frustrate me [that we don’t take our chances] and that was something I said even when we were winning – we’re not ruthless enough in both boxes.
“That’s why we’ve conceded 45 goals in 23 league games and also why we probably haven’t scored 50 ourselves. It’s frustrating.”
Another area of concern for the Exiles at Rodney Parade was the injury seemingly sustained by Joss Labadie early on in the contest.
After four previous appearances from the bench, the midfielder was only eight minutes through his first start for the club in nine months when he had to withdraw with what looked like a knee problem.
Flynn added: “It’s disappointing because we lost the game 4-1 and Joss looks like he’s injured again.
“He’ll have to have a scan – before the game, the physio and the doctor were happy and it’s just one of those things.
“That’s why we have to be careful – we thought he was right, passed all the tests, played 30-35 minutes in previous games, and we thought we’d get an hour out of him today.
“Before the injury, you could see he was breaking up the play and that’s what he brings to the team. Fingers crossed it’s just one of those things and we’ll just have to manage it a bit more now.”
The blessing at this time of year is the games continue to come thick and fast and County will have the chance to right the wrongs on Saturday against Crawley Town.
In what will be Flynn’s 100th game in charge of the Exiles, he’s hoping to celebrate the occasion with the correct kind of result at Rodney Parade.
He said: “That’s the Christmas period – and we’ve not started it very well so far to be honest. Let’s hope it improves.
“I’ve just got to get them going and believing in themselves again because I think it’s a little bit of a lack of confidence as well.”
NEXT UP | County conclude 2018 with a home match against Crawley Town. Buy tickets for that fixture.
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.