Mike Flynn believes his Newport County AFC side deserved more from their exploits at Chesterfield as that extra bit of clinicality gave the Spireites a 1-0 victory at the Proact Stadium in the final home game of their campaign.
The result could have been completely different after the Exiles had put together sustained spells of possession quite frequently during the game, most certainly in the first-half, although they were thwarted on every occasion by some superb saves from home goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
The Bournemouth loanee showed just what an asset he could be to the Premier League outfit next season whilst repelling long-range efforts from Aaron Collins and Josh Sheehan, but the best save of the night came on nine minutes when the goalkeeper somehow got a finger-tip to another curling Sheehan attempt to tip it past the near post.
Padraig Amond did have the beating of the 19-year old on 41 minutes when he chipped a speculative effort over the shot stopper, although ex-Exile Sid Nelson had already read the situation to acrobatically clear the attempt.
The Spireites centre-half injured himself in the process of hooking that attempt away off the goal line and that seemed to stifle the positive play from the Exiles somewhat after a small stoppage.
Referee Gavin Ward was swiftly blowing his whistle for half-time shortly after the game was able to restart – and the Spireites certainly seized the initiative early in the second-half.
Substitute Jacob Brown was causing all manner of problems following his introduction on the left-hand side, with Day having to be alert twice to hold swirling efforts from the winger just outside the penalty area.
That pressure from the home-side did finally tell, however, as Kristian Dennis continued a good season for the striker individually when bagging his 21st of the season on 71 minutes.
It was a swift counter attack that produced the goal, the influential Bradley Barry and Louis Dodds combining on the right-hand side this time around, before the latter crossed a pinpoint delivery into the area for Dennis to burst through and head home from close range.
The goal certainly seemed to give the Spireites a much-needed boost of confidence after a tumultuous campaign thus far, although the Exiles almost prevented Chesterfield from securing their 10th victory of the campaign late on; but Day didn’t connect anywhere near good enough to a late cross just five yards out.
That meant the Spireites could hold out for victory despite a lengthy amount of additional time at the end of the game, meaning County remain in 11th position with just one match of the campaign remaining.
And Flynn felt the result was a little harsh on his side after a dominative display for at-least the first 45 minutes.
“Yeah I think it was definitely [a game of two halves,]” he affirmed.
“I think we created enough chances in the first half to win two or three football matches and our end product just wasn’t good enough.
“We spoke about that at half-time and we just unfortunately went the other way second-half.”
The half-time double substitution from the Spireites at the Proact Stadium did allow the home side to start getting a foothold onto the contest.
Both Robbie Weir and Jacob Brown were certainly able to provide that creative spark for Chesterfield to work on, getting into dangerous positions in the County half as-well as being able to pick a pass towards their teammates in attacking positions.
And Flynn thought that particular duo contributed massively to the Spireites being able to finish their home campaign on somewhat of a high note.
He continued: “Yeah they did [have an impact] and to be honest with you, I thought they took off their best player in Andy Kellett.
“I would have liked to have thought that we would have gone on again and taken the impetus. But to be fair to Chesterfield, they’ve put some fight in tonight – especially second-half, there was a lot of fight.
“I think they were determined to put in one last show for the home fans.”
The Exiles were most certainly missing several key players for the fixture in Derbyshire.
Captain Joss Labadie has begun rehabilitation on his anterior-cruciate-ligament problem but still remains a long-term unavailability, while vice-captain Mark O’Brien also missed out on the matchday squad having succumbed to the toe injury that forced him off at half-time last weekend.
Ben Tozer also failed to make the 18-man squad following picking up an illness bug, with Scot Bennett ruled out virtually for the remainder of the season having had to have stitches on his foot.
And Flynn believes missing those crucial players did have a major impact on the result at the Proact Stadium.
He continued: “It didn’t help that we had to make a lot of changes this evening, the boys have still given me everything so I’m not going to read the riot act with them. They looked dead on their feet to be fair and that is simply from all the effort they have put in this season.
“When you look at it, we’ve lost Scot Bennett, Ben Tozer, Mark O’Brien and Joss Labadie – and when you lose those kinds of players from your squad it’s difficult.
“Ben White was struggling second-half, so it has been tough. Josh Sheehan had also run himself out. He was no-where near second-half but that doesn’t mean I’m having a go at Josh.
“He got into some really good positions first-half and probably should have scored to be fair. He’s been out a long time and you have to manage that right, get the most amount of minutes in his legs without causing an injury.
“That’s why we withdrew him – he was flat on his feet.”
Despite the defeat, Flynn’s aspirations to set a record points tally in a season since returning to the Football League remains firmly in-tact ahead of travelling to Carlisle United on Saturday for the final game of the 2017/18 campaign.
Only a win would be enough to set a new record points tally, with the defeat in Derbyshire keeping the Exiles on 63 points and still trailing the total set in 2014/15 by a further two points.
But getting that three-point haul has been made increasingly difficult over the past week after Carlisle manager Keith Curle announced his intentions to leave the club following the completion of the current campaign.
Should the Exiles win at Brunton Park then that would at-least give them a top-half finish, while a draw would theoretically also see them end the season in one of the top 12 positions.
And Flynn certainly understood the size of the challenge awaiting his team in Cumbria on the weekend.
He stated: “We’ve been on a decent run of form lately and we just hit a brick wall tonight. It’s been tough for them and with the amount of injuries that we have, it’s not ideal.
“A win would mean that we finish in the top half of the table, but it’s not going to be easy – it’s tough.
“We’ll have to see who we have available because they are out on their feet at the moment.”
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