Mike Flynn has admitted that he was left feeling “frustrated” after seeing his Newport County AFC side lose their unbeaten start to 2018 at Rodney Parade as Crewe Alexandra all but secured their League 2 survival with a 2-1 away victory.
The Exiles certainly made all the early running during the contest in South Wales, Aaron Collins and Josh Sheehan again impressing, although the side couldn’t quite force away goalkeeper Ben Garratt into making any standout saves.
Crewe were quietly growing into the game after a somewhat slow start from their perspective, and they took the lead after 26 minutes with their first real sight at goal.
Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy beat Mickey Demetriou to a looping header from Charlie Kirk, flicking the ball into the area before composing himself and coolly dispatching a shot low into the bottom corner from the edge of the six-yard area.
Callum Ainley and Paul Green also came close for the away side as they were well and truly turning the ascendency in their favour following the opener, whilst Mark O’Brien almost found the far corner at the other end when connecting to a Robbie Willmott free-kick.
That saw the visitors take a one-goal advantage with them into half-time, although that lead was doubled at Rodney Parade right on the hour-mark.
Charlie Kirk saw his effort cannon back off the far post as Crewe launched a quick counter-attack, with Jordan Bowery in the right place within the County box to pass home into the net despite the best attempts of Demetriou on the goal-line.
Demetriou was the man to give the Exiles a lifeline with nine minutes of the match remaining, heading into the centre of the goal from 10 yards after yet another excellent delivery from Willmott at a set-piece.
Ben Tozer hit the roof of the net late on as County searched in vain for an equaliser, Frank Nouble also coming close, but it wasn’t to be for the Exiles as they slipped down a place in the League 2 table and into 12th position.
That sees County ten points adrift of the final play-off position with eight games of the season remaining, and Flynn confirmed that there would be no excuses for the side slipping below their usual standards during the contest with the Railwaymen.
“To be honest, I don’t think we started until the 79th minute,” he affirmed.
“There will be no excuses – it was a bad day. We weren’t good enough for the first 79 minutes and I think we got what we deserved.”
The Exiles weren’t too far away from getting an equaliser after dominating the final ten minutes following Demetriou’s goal, although couldn’t register another shot on target in that time frame.
Nouble’s effort right at the death would have been ruled out for offside even if he had hit the back of the net, with the clinicality of the away side earning them the three points that has virtually secured their League 2 safety.
And Flynn felt the Cheshire outfit were good value for the points at Rodney Parade.
He continued: “Like I said, I wasn’t happy with today’s performance. Unfortunately, every decision we made was wrong.
“Even after we scored, they bring Michael Raynes on and we start kicking it onto his head. It’s crazy.
“The first goal started from our throw-in in their half and then it was kamikaze defending after that.”
Prior to the game, the Exiles had been on an upturn in form over the recent month, going five unbeaten in League 2 home and away.
And Flynn believes that it won’t take too long for the side to rectify the errors this week in training ready for the next match.
He stated: “I’m not going to say that they let me down because the effort was there. They all worked-hard, it was just the decision making.
“Every bit of decision making we did throughout the whole game was unfortunately wrong – even on throw ins.
“We’ve worked on the throw ins during the week – feet, back, switch the play. Feet, back, switch the play and I just don’t know what happened.
“I can’t control them once they are on the football pitch, they are in control of the football. We’ve got a plan and you can see that, so it’s just frustrating that the boys weren’t able to take on board today what we worked on in the week.”
County had the higher amount of set-plays during the contest, causing a host of problems in the Crewe penalty area whilst winning 13 corners.
That was 11 more than the away side at Rodney Parade, while the Exiles also had numerous free-kicks that caused Garratt some problems following excellent deliveries from Willmott.
But Flynn didn’t feel that his side won enough of the aerial duels in key areas to justify taking anything away from the game.
He commented: “We had two free-kicks in good areas around the edge of the box and we just didn’t do enough.
“I’ll be honest and say that we didn’t win a header in their box until we scored.
“That was the key to the game today I think – both boxes. And they were better than us.”
The £5 a ticket offer for both sets of supporters clearly worked for the game, with 4,638 spectators packing into Rodney Parade to witness the match.
That was the first time since August that the attendance figures surpassed the 4,000 mark for a League 2 fixture, although it had reached that number on two occasions in the intermittent period for the Emirates FA Cup, those coming against Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur.
And Flynn wanted to put on record his thanks to the home supporters for never giving up on the team right throughout the entirety of the match.
“They will be like me and they will go home disappointed,” he said.
“I’ll be honest, I thought they kept going and tried to get behind the boys all the way. That’s all I can ask from them really because it was frustrating for us all.
“Trust me, it’s more frustrating for me at the minute.”
The Exiles now have six days to rest and recover from the defeat before trying to rectify it on Good Friday against Coventry City.
The Sky Blues will more than likely head to Rodney Parade as favourites for the League 2 clash, having gone six unbeaten in League 2 and still with a realistic possibility of reaching the automatic promotion spots before the end of the season.
And Flynn believes his side will relish having the underdog tag once again for the game.
He explained: “We’ve just spoken in there now, both myself and Lennie, and it just seems that when we are the underdog and we have nothing to lose, we seem to come out on top.
“When we’re the favourites so to speak, I’m not sure we can handle the expectation and that’s something for us to work on.
“I’m hoping that what I’ve just said to you is going to come into fruition. We’re probably the underdog against Coventry and all the expectation will be on them.
“Let’s see what happens.”
Following that game with the promotion-challengers, County will have an even shorter time-frame between matches, going again against struggling Chesterfield on Easter Monday.
But Flynn remained adamant that his squad could deal with the short time frame between matches, owing to the fact the side have coped with it over the Christmas period and during the Emirates FA Cup run.
“You could quite clearly see that it was nothing to do with fitness,” he affirmed.
“We were on top for the end of the game, so if we had made the right decisions then we may have got something out of it.
“In all fairness, the goals we conceded, that was it. There wasn’t much in-between it after that, okay they had a couple of counter-attacks, but we started brightly in the first-half.
“Started bright in the second-half too, so it’s just frustrating.”
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