Mike Flynn says his Newport County AFC side were unlucky not to get anything from their trip to the County Ground as the Exiles started their CheckaTrade Trophy campaign with defeat to Swindon Town.
Chances were certainly few and far between in Wiltshire, as neither side could really create too much against two very solid defences.
The first chance of note probably should have been scored by the home side, but Keshi Anderson badly miscued his attempt when sent clear on 14 minutes.
Keanu Marsh-Brown saw two shots blocked by Luke Woolfenden and Joe Romanski respectively, while Jamille Matt was unlucky with a couple of headers from Tyler Forbes crosses.
Shots on target became even more scarce in the second-half but Swindon were given a glorious chance to win the tie when Scot Bennett was adjudged to have felled the effervescent Elijah Adebayo in the area.
Substitute Michael Doughty did the rest to keep Swindon’s qualification hopes alive, converting his fifth penalty of the season by chipping it straight down the middle when Nick Townsend went to his left.
That was enough to give the Robins all three points as County started the competition with defeat – but Flynn felt his side were unfortunate not to have got anything against their League Two counterparts.
“I thought there was nothing between the sides in the game,” he affirmed.
“It was a cheap penalty for us to give away if I’m honest, but I thought it was good for us to get some minutes into a few of the boys tonight.
“And it was also good to have a look at a few others. It was a decent performance and we only lost the game because we gave away a soft penalty.”
For the game in Wiltshire, Flynn made a total of eight changes from the side that sent County joint top of League Two last weekend with a resilient victory at Oldham Athletic.
Of the notable inclusions, Robbie Willmott was afforded his first minutes of the season having recovered from a hamstring problem sustained in pre-season, whilst Cameron Pring also came into the side for his Exiles debut.
Nick Townsend again deputised between the sticks, Charlie Cooper and Mark O’Brien both made their first starts of the season, and Antoine Semenyo recovered from his concussion problem to start.
Tyler Forbes and Keanu Marsh-Brown also returned to the starting line-up – with the three players keeping their place from Saturday being Scot Bennett, Dan Butler and Jamille Matt.
Speaking about the side, Flynn added: “Look, I thought the boys did alright.
“They didn’t look out of sorts against one of Swindon’s strongest teams, so they did play well and it’s just that little final pass and things like that in the final third that let us down. We could have maybe created a little bit more.”
One player to come in for some individual praise post-match was Cameron Pring.
The left-wing-back – who signed on loan on deadline day from Bristol City – looked accustomed on his debut and was perhaps unlucky to see a shot drag wide early on.
Pring’s pace was his greatest asset during the contest – causing Swindon defender Kyle Knoyle a whole host of problems with his tenacity out wide – and the defender linked well with Dan Butler and Keanu-Marsh Brown.
On the 20-year old, Flynn continued: “I thought he did alright to be fair to him.
“It’s hard coming up to speed with the pace of the game [having not played so far this season] so I thought he did really well.
“We got to see how quick he is during the first-half, so I thought he had a solid night.”
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Robbie Willmott after not only sustaining the hamstring problem in pre-season but having a setback just when it looked like he could originally return to the first-team.
Willmott, along with Jamille Matt, came off in the second-half to be replaced by Josh Sheehan and Tyreeq Bakinson respectively.
Flynn confirmed post-match it was always the intention to take the midfielder off to prevent any further complications, adding “We took Robbie off at 65 minutes as a precaution because that’s all he was going to play tonight.
“If wouldn’t have mattered if he’d have scored two goals or anything else, he was always going to come off after 65 minutes because we want to do right by the player.”
In addition to the starts for Bennett, Butler and Matt, the substitutes bench was composed entirely of players who had featured on Saturday in County’s first ever away victory at Oldham Athletic.
Fraser Franks was the only player from the starting line-up in Lancashire to be given the night off, with Flynn confirming the centre-back was rested to make sure he is fighting fit for Yeovil Town’s visit to Rodney Parade on Saturday.
“I’ve got a few who are still stiff from Saturday,” Flynn stated.
“Fraser’s groin was sore, Padraig Amond was sore which was why I decided not to put him on at the end.
“I’m not prepared to risk getting a few injuries and it also then allowed me to give a few who haven’t played recently some minutes in their legs.”
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