Being made Newport County AFC captain for the 1-1 draw with Carlisle United on the final day of the season at Brunton Park was “one of the best moments” to date in Dan Butler’s career with the club so far, according to the Exiles left-back himself.
Butler was given the armband ahead of kick-off by Mike Flynn as recognition for making his 100th competitive appearance for the club during the match, a fitting way to end another stellar season from the Exiles left-back.
Since his arrival on 28th June 2016 under previous manager Warren Feeney, Newport County AFC have only actually played 110 competitive matches – meaning Butler has featured in 91% of games since joining the club.
The left-back won four awards at the recent end of season awards presentation – securing the accolades of Disabled Supporters Association NCAFC Player of the Year, PFA Community Player of the Year, the David Williams Community Player of the Year Award alongside the main honour of the night - the Patron's Cup for Newport County AFC Player of the Year.
That follows on from winning the South Wales Argus readers player of the year during last season’s ‘Great Escape,’ alongside scoring four goals in County colours.
Whilst wearing the captain’s armband, Butler led the side to a draw that ensured they ended the campaign in the same way as they started it – with a point on the road - having shared a six-goal thriller with Stevenage on the opening day.
On this occasion, the Exiles fell behind on the quarter-of-an-hour when Danny Grainger’s corner-kick was powered home by an unmarked Mark Ellis.
But County weren’t about to give up there, however, and ensured they took a share of the spoils from their exploits to Cumbria as Padraig Amond finished the season with 15 goals when finding an equaliser seven minutes before the interval.
The Irishman headed back across home goalkeeper Jack Bonham from eight yards to conclude the season with a goal, following superb work from Robbie Willmott that saw the midfielder skip two challenges out-wide before providing a pinpoint delivery for Amond.
A point at Brunton Park saw County confirm themselves a place in the top-half of the League 2 table, concluding the season in 11th position having accumulated 64 points across the entirety of the campaign.
Post-match, Butler spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about how it felt to bring up a century of appearances for Newport County AFC, his thoughts on the draw with Carlisle United as-well as what he thinks the future could hold for the club next season.
On ending the season with a draw at Carlisle United…
“I don’t think we started the game particularly great to be honest.
“Carlisle had a shape that they thought would expose us and I think it did at times to start with. But then we got to grips with it and I feel like we were the better team from there.
“Especially in the last 15 minutes of the second-half and for the majority of the game as-well, we were going for it.
“That obviously meant we were open at times when going for the winner but other than that, I think we deserved to win, and unfortunately we didn’t.”
On reaching 100 appearances for Newport County AFC and being named captain for the day…
“I’m really proud that I have played 100 times for Newport County AFC.
“I was really happy that the gaffer gave me the armband today as-well, up there with probably one of the best achievements of my career so far - captaining Newport - so I’m really happy.
“Mark O’Brien is a great guy and he wanted me to be captain on my 100th game. I’m really proud that I got to captain the side today.”
On Padraig Amond’s 15th goal of the campaign alongside the one conceded by the Exiles at Brunton Park…
“It’s always disappointing to concede from a corner-kick. We work on it a lot, especially defensively, and we score quite a lot of goals ourselves from corners.
“But defensively it is frustrating to concede from one, but we made sure to bounce back, got our equaliser and I feel like we could have got the winner but obviously we didn’t.
“I think I heard the gaffer tell Robbie just before the goal that when he next gets the ball to attack the defender and put a cross in.
“That’s exactly what he did, it’s what Robbie is good at – running at people and getting crosses into the area. It was a great header.
“You ask any striker, they will always say that they would like more goals but for him to come here really late into pre-season and get to grips with the boys, the atmosphere around the place, I’m sure he will be happy to have got 15 goals this season.”
On the 270 fans that made the 564-mile round trip to Cumbria for the final game of the season…
“There were a lot of fans here today and we obviously didn’t want to let them down.
“It’s happened quite a few times this season, so we wanted to make sure that we ended the season in a positive way and with a positive performance.
“It’s just a shame that we couldn’t get the win today for them.
“They’ve been amazing all year and I kind of expected it to be honest [a travelling support of 270.] They’ve followed us all season and even at home, they’ve been unreal. We all really appreciate it.”
On his reflections of the season as a whole alongside his targets for the next campaign…
“After the end of last season, I could see this happening [finishing in the top-half of the table.] I still think probably the same as every player does in that we could have done better.
“We have to make sure that we do that again next year and get into those play-offs if not promoted this time next year.
“You can easily get carried away in football with things. Either it’s going really bad or it’s going really well. I think if everyone said that we would get 64 points, lose to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the FA Cup then they would have taken that.
“We just have to focus now and make sure we don’t sit on this and think we’ve made it. We need to make sure that we work as hard, if not harder, so that next season we are celebrating something.
“We need to constantly progress. In football, if you are not constantly trying to improve then you will get forgotten about and will get figured out.
“That’s football – you need to constantly try to improve. The boys here have got that mindset, we are happy with the season, but like I’ve said already, it could have been better.
“We’re hoping that it is next year.”
On his work with the ‘County in the Community’ team that saw him pick up four awards at last weekend’s end of season presentation night…
“I met Norman Parselle when I signed here for the football club. He got me involved in the ‘We Wear The Same Shirt’ group and I’ve created bonds with every single person there.
“I enjoy going there and spending time there, watching them play football – if I can go to their tournaments then I will go to their tournaments and it’s just supporting them like they support me on Saturdays and Tuesday nights.
“It’s just about giving back to the community really and I really enjoy it. If you told me that all this was going to happen in the last two years, then I probably would have laughed.
“But I’m really happy with how it’s gone and like I’ve said, if I don’t try to improve and progress then I will get forgotten about, so I have to make sure that next season is as good if not better than this season.”
Dan Butler has commited to County for another year - have you?
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