Achieving a record points tally in a season since returning to the Football League must be the main target for Newport County AFC to achieve as they prepare to finish the season with the long trip to Carlisle United, according to Exiles midfielder Matty Dolan.
The Exiles remained on 63 points following the narrow 1-0 defeat at Chesterfield on Tuesday night, meaning they are two points adrift of the best ever tally since promotion in 2013 – that coming during the 2014/15 campaign when amassing 65 points and finishing ninth.
County’s defeat in Chesterfield came courtesy of Kristian Dennis’s 71st minute winner that saw the Spireites at-least close the gap at the bottom of the table to fellow strugglers Barnet.
The goal itself was the product of a superb counter-attack from the Spireites. Bradley Barry, who had been the architect for all of their attacks throughout the game, found substitute Louis Dodds on the right-hand side before delivering a pinpoint cross for Dennis to head home his 21st of the season from close range.
In what was realistically a typical game of two halves, the Exiles could have got so much more from the game had it not been for the good exploits from Spireites goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
The Bournemouth loanee made some terrific saves in the first-half to deny Josh Sheehan on three separate occasions, the best of which was a stunning finger-tip save on nine minutes to deny a curling effort, while ex-Exile Sid Nelson read the situation well to clear a chipped effort from Padraig Amond off the goal line.
In the end, the extra bit of clinicality from Dennis shone through to give the home side a morale boosting victory in their final home encounter of the campaign – and they could have had more themselves but for the exploits of Joe Day.
It was certainly a night for the goalkeepers, Day producing two fine saves to deny substitute Jacob Brown after the winger had created some space on the edge-of-the-area, before another two unbelievable stops were made to deny Dennis from close range and then Barry’s emphatic volley on an acute angle.
That saw the Exiles remain in 11th position in the League 2 table ahead of the final game of the season in Cumbria, while theoretically County can only drop two places or gain one more during that contest.
Post-match, Dolan spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about that defeat at the Proact Stadium, how the side must still believe that the record points tally is within reach and how it felt to be named Newport County AFC captain for the first time during the match.
On the narrow defeat to Chesterfield…
“It was obviously a frustrating result for us.
“We fully intended to come here and get all three points to break the record that we are still striving to break. Like I said, game of two halves really.
“I thought we started the first half really well, thought we played some really good stuff, but the second-half wasn’t good enough for the standards that we have set for ourselves all season. If we want to be a top half team this year and a play-off team next year, then that’s not good enough.
“We know that wasn’t good enough, but we take the positives from the first-half and move on from there to try and end the season with all three points at Carlisle United.”
On being made Newport County AFC captain for the first time during the contest…
“The gaffer has brought me in this season, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of games, and I’m delighted that the gaffer has given me the armband today.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result but we have to take the positives from that first-half performance.
“There’s 11 leaders in there, there are 11 leaders out on the pitch – everyone is a leader really. Whether you have the armband on or not, you have to be a leader, but it is nice that the gaffer has given that to me.
“Proud moment for myself, my old man came down to watch so that was nice. My dad has followed me for my whole career. He comes down to Newport regularly, he’s probably only missed one or two games this season.
“He’s always down every Saturday morning and then I pitch him up on the Saturday night before he drives home up North, pretty much five and a half hours every weekend when we have home games.
“It’s brilliant that he does come all that way, but he’s retired now so he’d probably be bored if he didn’t.”
On the 79 fans who made the trip to Derbyshire on a Tuesday night just four days before the conclusion of the season…
“It’s an incredible support. Like we’ve said on many occasion this season, they are the 12th man to this football club.
“Maybe not as much excitement as the end of last season but like you said, I’d like to think the fans are kind of impressed with the season, the squad and the way we have done.
“They’ve obviously been a major part of it – during the FA Cup they were our 12th man all the way and really, they’ve been like that all the way along.
“Home and away, they have been absolutely fantastic. Credit to them, I know the dressing room will be thanking them as much as we can.
“Like I said, we’ve set the standards now so hopefully they can come back next season with a lot of optimism and we can hopefully deliver those standards – which is moving forward as a team and getting into the play-offs and obviously getting out of this league.”
On his reflections of the season as a whole…
“We don’t want to rest on our laurels and say that we’re disappointed not to be finishing in the play-offs after what happened last season.
“It is a big jump, but we believe with the standards that we have set in there, that we are a play-off team in this league. We had that blip, but it’s been a really good season.
“I think it has been a really good season and it’s a season that we must build upon next year. We’ll finish it strongly on Saturday, go forward as a group and make sure we build on it.
“We’ve set the standards for ourselves and if we can maintain those standards throughout the season and go about things the right way with the football club then they can only keep on getting better and better.
“We want to maintain those standards and then the rest will take care of itself.”
On attempting to finish the season on a high at Carlisle United on Saturday…
“A couple of free-kicks for myself the last time we played them.
“They will be fighting for their manager because he’s leaving them at the end of the year. He’s been a great servant to them, so they’ll be wanting to put on a good performance in-front of him.
“We want to go up there and kind of make sure that we put on our own performance. We’re still fighting for that highest points tally so we won’t be going up there with our flip-flops on.
“Keith Curle has been a fantastic servant for them – a couple of my mates have worked under him and said really good stuff about him.
“They will want to give him a good send-off but like you say, we’ve got our own targets and we want to go there and try and get the three points.”