AFTER two steps forward this was another step backwards for Newport County AFC but it could have been so much worse for Michael Flynn’s men.

In fact, after a truly horrible first half, the second period could well go down as the most important 45 minutes of the season so far for County.

A hugely impressive Luton Town side led 3-0 at the break and it could have been more as they underlined their promotion credentials and ruthlessly set about a ragged looking Exiles defence.

During the break the PA announcer asked a child in the crowd to predict the final score and the young Hatters fan went for 5-0.

It seemed at the time to be a conservative guess as the hosts threatened to inflict a humiliating and debilitating defeat that could have had a severe effect on confidence in the County ranks for weeks and possibly months to come.

But, credit to the visitors, they improved after the break and made a fight of it.

In truth, they could hardly have got much worse, but the spirited second-half showing restored some pride and hopefully means confidence has not taken too much of a battering.

After Joss Labadie fired between Marek Stech’s legs on 55 minutes they even threatened, albeit briefly, to mount an unlikely comeback.

When Mickey Demetriou shot just wide and Ben White saw another effort blocked, the home fans were getting distinctly nervy.

It was a far cry from the first half when the hosts were in complete control.

Alan Sheehan was credited with the first goal when his free-kick, which was heading for the bottom corner anyway, looked to be glanced into his own net by Demetriou.

The defender, who was the match-winner with two headers at Crawley Town last Tuesday, did not enjoy his trip to Kenilworth Road.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn felt the centre-back (above) was tripped as he hit the deck in the build-up to the second goal on 22 minutes but referee Mark Heywood saw no infringement and James Collins cut the ball back for Danny Hylton to flick it beyond Day.

Harry Cornick was denied the goal his display deserved by a superb save from Day but it was soon 3-0 as Mark O’Brien was harshly adjudged to have pushed his man in the box and Hylton coolly chipped in from the penalty spot.

There was still time for Jack Stacey to hit the post and Hylton to claim another penalty when he was challenged by White but County regrouped and came out fighting after the break.

They didn’t do enough to earn a share of the points and, frankly, they didn’t deserve anything out of the match.

But, in avoiding a hammering like the one Yeovil Town took at Kenilworth Road in August, the Exiles did at least limit the damage and give themselves a platform to get back on track against the Glovers next week.

They have always managed to bounce back from a setback under Flynn before and with a few personnel changes they will be confident of extending their unbeaten home record beyond 200 days at fortress Rodney Parade.

County: Day; Pipe, O’Brien, Demetriou, White; Willmott (Reynolds, 72), Labadie (McCoulsky, 76) Tozer, Rigg; Nouble, Amond (Quigley, 78)

Subs not used: Bittner, Butler, Bennett, Dolan

Booked: White, O’Brien

Referee: Mark Heywood

Attendance: 7,681 (296 County)