By Chris Lomas
Newport boss Michael Flynn gave a brutally frank assessment that his side “looked at best a mid-table team,” following their 1-0 home defeat to Oldham Athletic.
A first-half stoppage time goal for Oldham’s Zak Mills was all that separated the two sides, shifting Oldham up two places up into 20th. Newport drop down into 11th.
But Saturday’s defeat makes it three successive League Two defeats in a row – the first time that has happened since December 2018.
Asked if he was surprised by the performance, Flynn stated the quality has been missing for a while. “I’m not scratching my head,” Flynn said. “There’s things to iron out.
“Even when we’ve won a couple we haven’t been great if I’m being totally honest.
“I don’t tell them to go and play long, I don’t tell them to go kick the ball out of play, I don’t tell them to hit the front man on the cross. I’ve got work to do.”
Newport’s early form this season, coupled with a play-off final appearance last year, stoked talks of another promotion push.
In reality, they have looked anything but capable of that in the past three games, and Flynn identified that certain players in his squad could be struggling with the pressure.
“It looks like the expectation level – can one or two handle it? I’m not sure. There’s a bunch of players who look low on confidence.”
Flynn made two changes to the side that beat Grimsby 2-0 on Wednesday, Jamille Matt and Dan McNamara coming in for Robbie Willmott (calf strain) Josh Sheehan (suspension).
Newport were arguably the better team in the first half but failed to create anything that really threatened the Lactics.
The goal came one minute into stoppage time – Mills steering past Nick Townsend after the Exiles goalkeeper saved well from Jonny Smith’s first effort.
The Rodney Parade faithful were expecting a reaction in the second half, but they got the opposite. Missing the creativity of Sheehan in midfield, there was little service for Padraig Amond, Matt, or Tristan Abrahams to latch onto.
Against a hard-working and organised Oldham side, errors were far too commonplace, and Flynn couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“We over-hit everything, we under-hit everything – whatever we didn’t overhit, we underhit,” the Newport manager remarked.
“It was poor, really poor.”
Oldham saw the game out to inflict Newport’s second league defeat at Rodney Parade this season, and Flynn was unhappy about the lack of chances his side created.
“We’d still be out there now and we wouldn’t have scored.”
Before the game, the Newport manager’s decision to sick with second-choice goalkeeper Nick Townsend will have surprised a few, but the Exiles boss was adamant his choice was the right one.
“I thought Nick was excellent today,” said Flynn.
“Nick deserves to play, simple as that.”
Flynn has always cited the influence a positive Rodney Parade crowd can have on his team. But there were sections of the crowd that voiced their dissatisfaction after a slow start.
The Newport boss was particularly irate by some of the more vocal members of the crowd, which led to a heated back and forth.
“We hadn’t even touched the ball and they’re already booing,” he said. “Everybody’s got an opinion, and they’re all football managers now.
“How about getting behind the team? Especially after two minutes and forty-five seconds. That’d be good.”
Flynn will be hoping he can galvanise his team for Newport’s next game, a televised FA Cup fixture versus non-league Maldon & Tiptree, who play four divisions below in the Isthmian North division.
Flynn insists his team are going to have to find their feet quickly.
“They’re going to be live on TV, so there’s no hiding place now on Friday. They need to start finding some form.”
Pressure is beginning to build on Newport County, and Flynn knows his side needs to arrest their slump in form fast if they are to realise their promotion aspirations.