Mike Flynn says his Newport County AFC squad need to regain their clinical and ruthless streak if they are to challenge for a play-off position come the end of the season.
The Exiles fell six points off the top seven with a 1-0 defeat at Stevenage on New Year’s Day despite the fact they created a host of good opportunities during the contest in Hertfordshire.
Both sides traded chances in a lively opening, Padraig Amond saw a shot on the turn saved well by Paul Farman in the Stevenage goal before Joe Day kept out Ben Nugent.
The only thing missing at the Lamex Stadium was the final killer pass from a player on either side, County controlling proceedings if any but without that ability to carve open the Stevenage defence, although their cause was aided on 39 minutes when Kurtis Guthrie was dismissed for a lunging challenge on Fraser Franks.
Tyreeq Bakinson ended first-half proceedings by stepping up to the plate and being the player to finally produce a pass capable of getting in-behind the defence, Amond unlucky not to keep the shot down as Farman rushed out to block the angle.
Into the second half and County were certainly dictating the tempo in Hertfordshire, Amond twice unlucky from Robbie Willmott deliveries to see a header drift wide before being on the receiving end of a perfectly timed challenge from Scott Cuthbert just as he looked to smash home from close range.
That inability to make the numerical advantage count always left County exposed to the counter-attack and Stevenage ensured they got their play-off aspirations back on track by taking all three points with five minutes remaining.
It was a case of two Stevenage substitutes combining to give them victory in the first game of 2019, striker Alex Revell rising highest to meet a Michael Timlin corner-kick and powering a header into the middle of the goal.
That left County to suffer an agonising start to 2019 at the Lamex Stadium – and Flynn has called on his squad to regain their clinicality in-front of goal.
“We missed too many chances and gave away an easy goal – simple as that really,” he affirmed.
“I’m not going to start making excuses – we had near enough a similar team to the one that beat Stevenage at our place, I think 10 of them were out on the pitch that beat Stevenage [at Rodney Parade.]
“If we don’t score, then we have to keep a clean sheet – if we weren’t going to score then it should have been 0-0.
“We didn’t move the ball quick enough against their 10 men. Robbie Willmott put a lot of good balls in to the area, but they were missed.
“If you don’t take your chances then you get bitten.”
After a difficult festive period, it is now important for the team to regroup and take positives from what was, at times, a confident away performance against a team with one of the better home records in the division.
Flynn continued: “The longer the game went on you could see their goal was coming and you just knew it wasn’t your day.
“You saw what Forest Green did to us when we had 10 men and we just didn’t kill them off.
“I’m not going to be critical of the front two, everybody misses chances and I don’t think anyone does it on purpose.
“They’ve got 15 and 13 respectively and I can’t remember the last time two strikers did that for Newport in the league.
“It’s one of those things, we have to regroup and keep going.”
Despite only coming on with basically the seven minutes of additional time remaining in the contest, Josh Sheehan did make a noticeable difference to the Exiles attacking unit as they searched desperately for the equaliser.
After playing some excellent cross field passes to the wingers Mark Harris and Willmott which set up crosses into the area, Sheehan also went for goal himself and rattled the crossbar with a thumping effort.
Flynn added: “I thought Josh Sheehan did very well when he came on. He’s been hit and miss a few times this season and listen, nobody wants him to get going more than me.
“On his day, he’s a great player and he’s got to do that week in week out.”
Flynn also made sure to praise the 150 travelling supporters who gave up their New Year’s Day’s to travel to Hertfordshire and cheer on the team.
He stated: “The fans didn’t stop, supportive throughout the game, gave up their New Year’s Day and I’m just sorry we couldn’t give them the three points.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying, the boys did work really hard but missed too many chances. And these are chances they would have been putting away a couple of weeks ago.”
NEXT UP | County face the mouth-watering prospect of hosting former Premier League Champions Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round. Tickets for this fixture went on general sale earlier today and more information can be found here.
LEAGUE | The Exiles return to League Two action on 12th January 2019 when making the trip to take on Crewe Alexandra. Ticket details can be found here.