NEWPORT County AFC manager Michael Flynn admits his players have to share the blame for defeat at Notts County with referee Craig Hicks.

The Exiles boss was adamant that the red card shown to defender Dan Butler after just 34 minutes changed the game at Meadow Lane.

Butler was adjudged to have elbowed Matt Tootle while challenging for a high ball.

That was a decision that Flynn strongly disagreed with but, while he was proud of his team’s effort, he did not spare the 10 men from criticism.

“I’m very disappointed with the first goal because, even though the referee has changed the game, I don’t think the sending off had anything to do with the way we conceded the first goal,” said the manager.

Jorge Grant slotted in the opener two minutes after Butler’s dismissal and added a second goal after the break, as well as creating another for Shola Ameobi.

The victory took Kevin Nolan’s side back to the top of the League Two table, while the Exiles slip to eighth – two points below seventh-placed Wycombe Wanderers.

“Notts County have won 3-0 and they could have scored a few more,” said Flynn.

“I’m not happy with the goals we conceded but my boys kept going and kept working.

“It’s just one of those days I’m going to just scratch off, if I’m honest. We’ll put it behind us.”

The result means County have gone three games without a win after defeat at home to Colchester United and a 1-1 draw with Mansfield Town last week.

“Everyone will start to say this is a mini-blip now and that’s fine,” added Flynn.

“We’ve got one point out of nine but we did that last season and then went on to win five in a row.

“It’s not concerning me because I know the effort is there and there’s definitely some quality there.

“I thought we were slightly the better team [before the red] and we played some outstanding football with 10 men as well. I’m proud of the players.

“And let’s not forget that we were missing three of our leaders as well in Joss Labadie, Mark O’Brien and David Pipe, who didn’t make it because of a sickness bug.

“Mark’s injury has flared up again so it’s about managing it again. I gave him a few days off last week but he felt it again in training on Thursday.”

Flynn is hopeful that he will have more options for the FA Cup first round tie against League One Walsall at Rodney Parade next Saturday (kick-off 5.15pm).

“I wish we had a game on Tuesday to bounce back straightaway,” he said.

“But at least it gives us a full week to hopefully get some players back, dust ourselves down and work on the training ground on what we need to improve on.”