Newport County are struggling and their manager, Michael Flynn, is at the centre of the storm, having been regarded for so long as the man who brought sunshine days to Rodney Parade. Chris Lomas followed County to Exeter City on Boxing Day to see a team – and a manager – blown further off course in League Two.
He may be under fire from fans – with some of the more extreme elements suggesting online he should now be sacked – but Michael Flynn insists he can turn the tide at Newport County.
Flynn – the man who saved the club from falling out of the Football League and who masterminded two epic FA Cup runs – is in the middle of his biggest crisis since entering management.
County’s 1-0 defeat at Exeter City on Boxing Day was their sixth in their last seven games in League Two.
At a very wet St. James Park, the Exiles failed to land any punches, Exeter delivering the fatal blow in the 12th minute with a well-worked move finished off by Lee Martin.
The loss dropped Newport one place into 14th, while Exeter stay in second.
“I thought we competed and battled well, tried to keep going,” Flynn said. “I’ve seen enough positives the way they stuck together out there today and backed each other that we’ll turn this corner.”
Flynn nevertheless pointed to the same problems that have persisted for the past few games.
“We lacked confidence and quality if I’m being honest. I’ve got no arguments about the result really, because we didn’t really create enough.”
The Exiles terrible run in the league continues and Flynn wasn’t looking for excuses after the game.
“We’re on a bad run of form at the minute, I’m not going to deny it. I can’t deny it,” he said.
“We’ve got to snap out of it. We’ve got ambitions. We want to do well in this league.”
It was another difficult afternoon for the 521 fans who made the trip down to Devon, with one fan making his feelings forcefully known to Newport’s boss after the game.
But the man himself has broad shoulders and had no complaints.
“I’ve got no qualms,” Flynn said. “He made his point but he did it in the right way. I need to take it on the chin. The buck stops with me.”
January reinforcements can’t come soon enough for the Exiles. Newport are without a number of options: Mark O’Brien, Dan Leadbitter, Kyle Howkins, Corey Whitely, Robbie Willmott, and Ade Azeez are all set to miss Sunday’s game at home to Leyton Orient.
“It don’t rain – it pours,” Flynn said, ruefully.
“We’ve still got six out, four or five of them would probably be starters.”
Sunday’s match will give County the chance to pay an emotional tribute to former boss Justin Edinburgh, who died aged 49 in June this year and Flynn paid a glowing tribute to his friend.
“He’s somebody who I had so much respect for. I was absolutely devastated with what happened to him,” Flynn added.
“I miss him. It’s as simple as that.”
Flynn spoke with confidence that a strong support base will get the club through a difficult moment for the club.
“My wife’s very supportive, really, really backs me, Lennie [Lawrence] is good, Hats (Wayne Hatswell) is good, Jim [Holman] is good. We’ve got a really tight group. It’ll turn.”
As Newport face two home games in quick succession, the New Year resolution will be to start 2020 far better than they finished 2019.
It was hard work for Newport at Exeter, who dominated the first half. The only goal came in the 12th minute, Martin releasing the marauding Randall Williams down the right. Williams’ low fizzing cross was neatly slotted home by Martin.
“Exeter, they’re in the top three for a reason. They had one chance, really, and took it,” the Exiles boss stated.
Newport were certainly a more competitive outfit in the second half. Flynn’s two changes at half time – Abrahams and Nurse on for Amond and Maloney – gave the team renewed energy.
As the second half progressed, the pitch began to cut up badly, with County goalkeeper Nick Townsend struggling with his kicking throughout the second half.
Newport battled well, but struggled to create anything that troubled the Grecians.
Jamille Matt headed over in injury time, arguably Newport’s best chance of the game.