Mike Flynn has admitted that he was left feeling “disappointed” after seeing his side fail to rise into the League 2 play-off positions with a 1-1 draw against Morecambe at Rodney Parade.
Flynn’s objective since the Emirates FA Cup fourth round draw was made earlier this month was to have the Exiles in the play-off positions by the time that cup game was played.
And that was all going to plan after Ben Tozer had given County the lead on 14 minutes, instinctively swinging a leg at a Frank Nouble flick-on to put the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
The Exiles pushed forward to kill off the game, Mickey Demetriou seeing a header cleared off the line by Kevin Ellison in-addition to debutant Emmanuel Osadebe shooting narrowly wide from long range.
But Morecambe ensured County had to settle for being a point outside the play-offs when they found their equaliser with 14 minutes to go.
Captain Michael Rose calmly dispatched his penalty into the bottom left corner after Joe Day had tripped substitute Garry Thompson, as the Shrimpers continued their impressive streak of being unbeaten against County in League 2 at Rodney Parade.
Both sides did have chances to win the game late on, Steve Old narrowly diverting an Ellison attempt past the far post with Day beaten, while Padraig Amond and Shawn McCoulsky both forced Barry Roche into smart saves.
The point means County have to settle for 8th position in the League 2 table ahead of the cup break, and Flynn feels it was a case of two points dropped as opposed to one gained.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the three points,” he affirmed.
“I thought it was two points dropped and the manner in which we conceded the goal wasn’t good enough.
“I think we’re getting a little carried away expecting to win every game. It’s not going to happen, we’re still unbeaten and we didn’t lose.
“We should have won the game.”
The Exiles did create a few chances during the game, even if clear-cut opportunities were somewhat at a premium in South Wales.
And Flynn praised experienced Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche for denying the Exiles on several occasions in the five additional minutes of added time.
“The save right at the end, anywhere else and that goes in,” he said.
“There were a couple of other ones that went just past the post, a couple of crosses that we didn’t get on the end of.
“I thought Robbie Willmott was excellent, he was the best player on the park by a country mile.”
But ultimately County were undone by that late penalty, just the third spot kick they have conceded so far this campaign.
And Flynn was in no doubt that the referee made the right call.
“I think so,” he admitted.
“I’m not going to go on about it because what has disappointed me more is the mix-up between our players before it which led to the through ball.”
The Exiles seemed to command proceedings at Rodney Parade, having 58% of the possession and creating more shots on target during the game.
And Flynn did feel that his squad were well in control for the majority of the game.
“I thought we were comfortable for the majority of the second half too,” he continued.
“They changed it up a few times in the game, but we’ve got to be more ruthless in the box.
“They made a great save at the end there mind which would have given us the win, but the players gave me their all and you could tell it was one before Spurs shall we say.”
However, Flynn did go on to comment that he didn’t believe that the upcoming Spurs game affected his players too much during the match.
He added: “I don’t think it had anything to do with it really, it was just that kind of feeling around the place.
“But I don’t think it affected the boys one bit because for the majority of the game, we were the better team.
“They had a ten-minute spell second-half where they were a little bit on top, but apart from that I thought we were the better team by far.”
The Exiles don’t have too long to wait for their next game, as a crowd of just under 10,000 is expected to descend on Rodney Parade for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (5:30pm kick-off.)
Flynn has several injury headaches to worry about in preparation for that cup tie against the eight-time winners of the competition, including that of Ben White.
The 19-year old missed out on the starting side of a league game for the first time since the opening day of the season, but Flynn feels his centre-back will recover in time for Saturday.
“He’s had a bit of a tight hamstring now for a few games,” he admitted.
“And if there was ever one where I was going to look to leave him out it was today, because I don’t want him to pull his hamstring.
“We need him on Saturday and we need him for the next few weeks.”
Captain Joss Labadie and Matty Dolan have both missed the last two league games having picked up hamstring injuries in the away victory to Grimsby Town.
And Flynn was less optimistic about his midfield duo post-match.
“I’m not sure,” he confirmed.
“I’m hoping one, if not two are. But I really don’t know. I’ll see how they are Thursday if they train.”
“It didn’t affect the team too much against Crawley because the boys came in and did well, the two in there put in a good shift.
“And I thought they did that again today, Ben Tozer got the goal, but it’s just disappointing with the goal we conceded, and we’ll have to see what the weekend brings.”
Josh Sheehan was also withdrawn at half-time against Morecambe.
But Flynn confirmed that decision was made due to the 22-year old having not played a full competitive game for several months.
“It was tactical,” he stated.
“It’s a little bit unfair to expect him to be at a level when he has been out for so long.
“I wanted to get more on top of the battle and get some more legs in there. Manny did that, he’s enthusiastic and he wants to be a part of it.”
But on the more positive injury front, Mark O’Brien made his first start for the club since being dismissed against Lincoln City last month.
And Flynn was delighted to see his vice-captain return to the first-team fold after that suspension and subsequent injury problem.
He said: “Like I said, we’re going to need these players throughout the season.
“It’s good, it’s just disappointing that we didn’t get the result tonight because for the majority of the game, the performance was better than what Morecambe’s was.
“We just have to be a bit more clinical and ruthless at both ends.”
Flynn had wanted his players to not become distracted by that glamour tie in the Emirates FA Cup until after all the League 2 fixtures beforehand were played.
But he has now confirmed that his attentions are now fully focused on getting the club into the fifth round of the competition for just the second time in the club’s history.
He added: “I hope they haven’t been too excited because they’ve just had to play Morecambe.
“I can now start thinking about Spurs and having that conversation, but they need to be more ruthless than they were tonight because you won’t get that many chances against Spurs.
“It’s a game of football, big occasion, good for the club and the fans and the players, that’s all it is.
“Unless we win the game and then we get another one.”