Finding some consistency in the remaining games of the season could still give Newport County AFC a real chance of reaching the League 2 play-offs, according to Exiles defender Dan Butler.
County secured a third successive draw at Rodney Parade in the 3-3 thriller with Forest Green Rovers, while it was also the third time this season that County shared a six-goal contest following the same scoreline against Stevenage on the opening day and Carlisle United in December.
Five of the six goals during the game came in a first-half where nearly every chance produced a goal for the two teams.
Butler inadvertently turned a Haydn Hollis cross into his own net after just six minutes, although played a vital role in allowing County to take the lead themselves by the time 17 minutes had elapsed in the game.
Three minutes after the opener it was Butler’s perfectly hit 25-yard volley that took a slight deflection off Paul Hayes before drifting into the far corner, before the left-back again turned provider with a clever flick from a Matty Dolan delivery to allow Hayes to head home from all of two yards.
Forest Green found their own equaliser right on the half-hour mark, Gavin Gunning finishing off a well worked corner routine to drill through a host of bodies from a difficult angle inside the six-yard area.
But County were determined to take a lead into half-time and Hayes duly obliged by getting another, this one an instinctive finish to pass the ball into an empty net after away goalkeeper Bradley Collins had done well to block the original effort from Mark O’Brien.
However, Rovers have certainly become a tough side to beat since the turn of the year, going the whole of February unbeaten, and they were intent on taking a share of the spoils back with them to Nailsworth and they got their equaliser with six minutes remaining.
Substitute Lee Collins was the man to get the final goal of the match, curling a shot into the far corner via the post from just outside the area.
That point means County are nine without a win from all competitions, although they did close the gap on the League 2 play-offs to just eight points from the top seven positions.
Post-match, Butler spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about the enthralling contest with Forest Green Rovers, the side scoring a goal for the first time in six matches and how they can start their charge for the play-offs with a positive result at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
On the thrilling six-goal draw with Forest Green Rovers…
“It was the craziest first half of football that I’ve ever played in.
“Obviously scored an own-goal early on, second time I’ve done that this season and I really don’t want to get a name for myself in scoring own-goals. I’ve got a couple of things that I need to work on. I’m always trying to improve myself so I’m sure it won’t happen again.
“I’ve then ‘scored’ but I’ve heard Hayesy is taking it – I’m not too bothered at the end of the day, then 2-1 up, 2-2, 3-2 up again and I thought we looked comfortable at the start of the second-half.
“But they obviously had their spell then later on in the second-half and eventually scored. I don’t think any of their goals were really any good because usually we’ve been very good at defending those sorts of areas.
“The overall emotion afterwards is disappointing. I feel like we’ve dropped two points tonight and I think the rest of the boys, especially the manager, feel like it is two points dropped as-well.”
On the majestic display of Paul Hayes during his first start in a Newport County AFC shirt…
“I’ve played against Hayesy a lot of times when he was at Wycombe Wanderers and especially in this league, he is a very good player.
“You saw that today, he was unplayable at times, and we really did look a different side when he was on the pitch.
“Obviously, he had to go off for whatever reason, but I think you could see that he has got something different about him, been in professional football for near on 15 years now and we benefitted with him on the pitch.
“If you speak to any defenders in the Championship who have played against him, League 1, League 2, they will all say that they don’t like playing against Paul Hayes.
“In training, he’s not very nice to play against. He can put the ball in the back of the net and that’s the main thing really.”
On the goals conceded by the Exiles at Rodney Parade…
“We’re obviously disappointed that we couldn’t keep a clean sheet.
“I’ve obviously scored an own-goal and you think that the clean sheet is gone but then you go 2-1 up and you start thinking that we can kick on from there.
“But we concede again, this time from a set piece, which is not like us. And the one at the end is really disappointing.
“It’s tough to keep a high tempo for 90 minutes. Obviously, we are professional footballers and we’ve got to be fit – but to keep a high pressing intensity for 90 minutes, I don’t think there are many teams that can do it.
“But I don’t feel like it sapped us because we had a lot of chances to go 4-2 or 5-2 up, we tried to push up where we could while keeping a solid base in the second half.
“It was working so we are just really disappointed not to get the three points. We were clinical today I thought but we weren’t clinical in our defending.
“We just need to try and find some consistency now, both attacking wise and defensively, and I think we’ll be alright.”
On closing the gap on the League 2 play-offs to just eight points with eleven games to go…
“Of course we can [still make the play-offs.]
“It should really be six points but it’s a point gained. I think everyone would have been a lot more disappointed if we would have lost tonight so we just have to make sure we get three points away at Yeovil on Saturday.”
On heading to Huish Park on Saturday to face Yeovil Town…
“We were in that position last year [battling towards survival] and I’m almost certain that nobody wanted to play against us.
“A team that’s fighting for their life is dangerous and we need to go there focused, ready to battle, and then just play our football which will hopefully win the game.
“It’s a completely different time of the season now [compared to the 2-0 victory back in October.] They probably have a lot of different players and have probably worked on what was letting them down at the start of the season.
“They will know a lot more about us now, so I expect them to have a game plan to try and beat us. Hopefully we’ll have a better game plan to beat them.
“If they won tonight or if they lost tonight, Saturday was always going to be a tough game anyway.
“Especially if we don’t turn up and give it our all. If we do turn up and do everything we can to win the game, then I’m sure we will.”