Mike Flynn says he was proud of Newport County AFC’s defensive resilience but frustrated with the lack of clinicality in the final third as the Exiles were held to a 0-0 draw against Port Vale at Rodney Parade.
Chances were certainly at a premium in South Wales amidst two resolute and organised midfield systems and the best opportunities of note came in the first-half.
On six minutes, Nick Townsend’s long ball down field from a free-kick inside his penalty area was perfectly weighted for Padraig Amond, he looked like he had chipped Scott Brown with a lopping attempt, but the Valiants goalkeeper heroically lept back into his goal to tip it over his crossbar.
Two minutes later, James Gibbons stung the palms of Townsend and the Exiles goalkeeper also had to hold a powerful Luke Hannant header, then thwart Manny Oyeleke’s surging run with his feet before half-time.
Only half chances could be constructed after the restart, both sides comfortable in posession in the midfield areas but neither could translate that into attacking intent with the final pass seemingly always missing.
Tyreeq Bakinson and substitute Keanu Marsh-Brown both tried their luck from distance but to no avail, Josh Sheehan wasted a good opening in stoppage time, whilst at the other end Luke Joyce and Mark Harris saw tame shots held by Townsend.
That meant County had to settle for a stalemate in League Two – and Flynn says he can’t fault the effort and desire of his players after exerting so much energy in the Emirates FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough just 72 hours previously.
He affirmed: “It wasn’t the best of spectacles – I think we looked tired at key moments and I think the pitch was, let’s say, bobbly.
“It’s hard because there was a lot of rain earlier in the day, lots of games previously played on the pitch, and it kind of stopped us playing football. In saying that, we got into some good areas but we just didn’t quite make the right decision in the final third.
“No one let me down, the players gave their all. It’s just, especially at the end, last 20 minutes, I just thought there was a few wrong decisions.
“Instead of trying to keep the ball moving and switching the play, we were trying to have shots from 30/40 yards which was silly. The crosses were hitting the front man.
“They gave their all the boys, but you could see they looked tired.
“It’s tough for them [the strikers.] They do a lot of running for the team, Podge and Jamma, and you could see that Saturday took that out of them.”
He added: “Of course I understand [why this performance happened.]
“It wasn’t like we played around the corner on Saturday either, we didn’t get back until half 12 at night. But the boys did give their all. Thankfully, this game was at home or otherwise it could have been even worse.”
In terms of positives, Flynn was satisfied with the impact from his substitutions as they all came on and made a difference from an attacking sense.
Matty Dolan – hero from Saturday’s draw on Teesside – Keanu Marsh-Brown and Josh Sheehan all got themselves into shooting positions but just couldn’t quite break the deadlock.
Flynn continued: “I thought we huffed and puffed, created some good opportunities without really having the final ball.
“I thought Keanu Marsh-Brown looked bright when he came on, bit of pace. Keanu has been frustrated but he’s worked really hard, as have all of the players.
“They’ve all been as good as gold and that’s what we’re about – we all stick together.”
A shutout for both teams at Rodney Parade did mean the Exiles were able to keep successive clean sheets in League Two for the first time this season.
The point also saw them move up one spot in the League Two table to 13th, closing the gap on the play-offs ever so slightly to seven points and still with a game in hand on Exeter City.
“We had a bit of a wobble where we lost a few games and we haven’t managed to kill teams off,” Flynn stated.
“That’s a few now with Stevenage, Crewe, Crawley and now Port Vale. But these are the games that we should be winning really.
“Then you look even deeper at the frustrating ones – Carlisle, Lincoln where we’ve given them two early goals, clawed back into it and finished really strongly and should have got something out of the games.
“We’ve got to keep on trying to pick up wins.”
The games certainly don’t ease up for the Exiles as they make the long trip up to Grimsby on Saturday before returning to Rodney Parade on Tuesday for the Emirates FA Cup replay with Middlesbrough – a game live on BT Sport.
“Can’t wait to travel all the way back up there!” Flynn said.
“I’m not even thinking about [any potential game with] Man City. My thoughts at the moment are on Grimsby and then 5pm Saturday, you can ask me about Middlesbrough.”
NEXT UP | It’s the long trip to Lincolnshire to face Grimsby Town on 2nd February 2019. Tickets are available from the Kingsway Club Shop and online now.
AT HOME | County will take on Middlesbrough next Tuesday in an Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay live on BT Sport. Click here for ticket information.
LEAGUE TWO AT RODNEY PARADE | County’s next home league match is 9th February 2019 when high-flyers Mansfield Town are the visitors. Buy match tickets online here.