Newport County are in it for the long haul as they prepare for Saturday’s final League Two fixture of the season.
The Exiles follow a 1-0 defeat against relegated Chesterfield with a 600-miles round trip to play Carlisle United this weekend.
“We’ve been on a decent run of form lately and just hit a brick wall against Chesterfield,” said manager Michael Flynn. “It’s been tough for the players and, with the amount of injuries that we have, it’s not ideal.
“A win at Carlisle would mean that we finish in the top half of the table, but it’s going to be tough.
“We’ll have to see who we have available because the players are out on their feet at the moment.”
The Exiles were missing several key players for the midweek fixture in Derbyshire.
Captain Joss Labadie has started rehabilitation on his knee ligament problem, but is a long term absentee, while vice-captain Mark O’Brien was ruled out by a toe injury.
Ben Tozer also failed to make the 18-man squad because of illness bug and Scot Bennett is ruled out after having stitches in a foot wound.
“It didn’t help that we had to make changes,” said Flynn. “The boys have still given me everything so I’m not going to read the riot act to them.
“They looked dead on their feet to be fair and that is simply from all the effort they have put in this season.
“Ben White was struggling in the second half and Josh Sheehan had run himself out. He was nowhere near after half-time, but that doesn’t mean I’m having a go at Josh.
“He found some really good positions in the first half and probably should have scored. 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 injury.
“That’s why we withdrew him – he was flat on his feet.”
Kristian Dennis’s headed goal after 71 minutes was enough to give Chesterfield victory. Bradley Barry, the architect for almost all home attacks found substitute Louis Dodds on the right before delivering a pinpoint cross for Dennis to head his 21st of the season from close range.
Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, on loan from Bournemouth, made three big saves to deny Sheehan, while former County player Sid Nelson cleared a chipped effort from Padraig Amond off the goal line.
It was a night for goalkeepers with Newport’s Joe Day producing fine saves to deny substitute Jacob Brown twice before he made two outstanding close range stops from Dennis and Barry.
The defeat left the Exiles 11th place in League Two table ahead of their final game of the season at Carlisle United.
Flynn made two changes to the starting line-up against Cambridge United. Tyler Reid came in for his second start since signing on loan from Swansea City, although the 20-year-old has featured more frequently off the bench over the past few months.
Aaron Collins returned to the team, taking over from Tozer, and he played in attack alongside Amond and Frank Nouble as Flynn set up 4-3-3.
Newport deserved better than defeat overall and Flynn said: “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, but unfortunately we went the other way second-half.”
Flynn’s aspirations to set a record points tally in a season since returning to the Football League remains intact ahead of the match at Carlisle United.
Only a win would be enough to set a new record points tally. Defeat in Derbyshire kept the Exiles on 63 points, still trailing the total set in 2014-15 by two points.
Carlisle have lost only once in 13 matches, but manager Keith Curle has announced is leaving at the end of this season and there is an air of uncertainty around the club.
“It’s frustrating,” says defender Mark Ellis, who will again link up with player of the year Clint Hill at the heart of Carlisle’s back four.
“We’ll find out exactly what’s going to happen when they want to tell us. Until we know what we’re doing, we just get on with it, keep being professional and performing to the best of our ability.”
Chesterfield: Ramsdale, Talbot (capt), Nelson (Whitmore 42), Barry, Maguire, Binnom-Williams, Reed, Dodds, Kellett (Brown 46) Smith (Weir 46), Dennis. Subs not used: Anyon, Rowley, Holmes, McCourt
Newport County: Day, Butler, White, Demetriou, Reid, Dolan (capt), Willmott, Sheehan (Jahraldo 75), Nouble (Hayes 82), Amond, Collins (Jackson 60). Subs not used: Bittner, Pipe, Foulston, Touray
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 4,608 (79 away)
League Two 2017-18
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Final day League Two fixtures (all 3pm): Barnet v Chesterfield, Cambridge United v Port Vale, Carlisle United v Newport County, Coventry City v Morecambe, Crewe Alexandra v Cheltenham Town, Exeter City, Colchester United v Forest Green Rovers v Grimsby Town, Lincoln City v Yeovil Town, Mansfield Town v Crawley Town, Notts County v Luton Town, Swindon Town v Accrington Stanley, Wycombe Wanderers v Stevenage.