Mike Flynn says ‘the best team lost’ after Newport County AFC suffered a 3-2 defeat in their final away game of 2018 against league leaders Lincoln City at Sincil Bank.
Things didn’t exactly go to plan for the Exiles to start the contest and they were 2-0 down inside the opening seven minutes after a fast start from the Imps.
Tom Pett’s delivery caused havoc inside the penalty area and John Akinde profited from the loose ball to smash home after just three minutes, before Harry Anderson’s mesmerising run and finish on a swift counter-attack doubled the advantage.
From there, County started to get themselves back into the contest and build momentum, Grant Smith’s fingertip save from Robbie Willmott's half-volley a precursor to a sustained amount of possession for the Exiles.
County’s efforts were rewarded in first-half stoppage time as Padraig Amond reduced the deficit. Fraser Franks’ header from a corner-kick looked comfortable for Grant but he spilt it, Amond reacting quickest to fire high into the roof of the net.
The second-half started on more of an even keel but just as County looked to be gathering momentum again, they were dealt a sucker punch as Tom Pett struck with 23 minutes remaining from another speedy breakaway.
The Imps profited from a deflection as Pett’s 25-yard strike left Day wrong footed, but credit has to go to Akinde, Lee Frecklington and the goalkeeper for setting the move in motion after County had put together a nice attack in the initial instance.
All wasn’t lost at that point, however, as Amond again benefitted from an error by the Lincoln shot stopper with 14 minutes left on the clock. Smith’s mis-kick fell kindly to Jamille Matt, he teed up the Irishman who still had a lot to do but curled home from 14 yards to become the club’s top scorer on 14 goals.
No equaliser could be found despite constant pressure from the Exiles – leaving Flynn disappointed not to take anything from the trip to Lincolnshire.
He affirmed: “I’m disappointed with the goals we conceded – it’s becoming a common theme now of a slow start.
“But after those first 25 minutes, I thought we were the better team by a mile.
“We knew Lincoln would start bright, we knew they’d throw things at us and everything went out of the window in the first 25 minutes.
“Once we got back into the game, we were the better team by far. We created more chances than Lincoln, we outplayed them second half but conceded poor goals.
“As soon as we scored our first goal, I heard Danny [Cowley] go into the dressing room and he absolutely slaughtered their players – I could hear it. We were on top before that point as well.
“But we conceded a third goal which was poor, and it results in the best team losing.”
Flynn continued on the performance: “On the whole, we defended very well. But if you allow and keep conceding those soft goals then it’s going to become difficult.
“We worked on it all week and we knew what to expect. We had a team meeting and I said stay in the game, don’t concede, keep the ball and make sure your clearances are good.
“Unfortunately, in the first 20/25 minutes, we did everything the opposite and it’s cost us.
“I am fed up of talking about poor starts and I’ve just said that to the players in the dressing room.
“I’ve got no excuses, we worked on everything, and teams will probably be talking about us and saying that our weakness is a poor start.
“I don’t really know what to say about that again apart from it’s not good enough.”
Ahead of the game, Flynn made two changes to the starting side and implemented a 4-3-3 system.
Mickey Demetriou was only fit enough to make the bench having sustained a fractured cheekbone last time out, whilst Tyreeq Bakinson was also named amongst the substitutes and replaced by Mark O’Brien and Robbie Willmott respectively.
Flynn continued: “We knew what Lincoln’s strengths were, we do our homework on every opposition and we wanted to give ourselves every chance of winning the match.
“If we went with a three at the back for example, John Akinde would have just spun into the channels and had a lot of space.
“The wide men would have then run off him – the wing-backs couldn’t have got tight to them, so we’d have basically been a five anyway. We might as well have gone 5-4-1 and shut up shop [if we played that system.]
“We thought we had a chance to win the game and that’s what we wanted to do.”
NEXT UP | We welcome Forest Green Rovers to Rodney Parade on Boxing Day. Get your tickets online here.
AFTER THAT | County conclude 2018 with a home match against Crawley Town. Buy tickets for that fixture.
AWAY TRIP | The Exiles start 2019 with a trip on New Year’s Day to Hertfordshire to take on Stevenage. Ticket details can be found here.