MANAGER James Rowberry admitted the lack of fans at Rodney Parade hit Newport County AFC hard in defeat to Salford City – but that his players can’t blame that for being outmuscled.

The Exiles were beaten 2-0 by the Ammies in Newport in their first fixture behind closed doors because of Welsh government restrictions.

County fought back from behind in December to take the spoils against Sutton and Port Vale but never looked like responding to a Finn Azaz own goal at the end of the first half and Brandon Asante-Thomas’ strike at the start of the second.

They remain seventh after the loss in the final play-off spot but have played more games than their rivals.

“You can still win first contacts, second balls and tackles whether there is a crowd or not,” said Rowberry, whose side have taken one point from their last three games.

“It’s always that extra five per cent of motivation and it benefitted Salford more because they didn’t have to deal with the crowd and the noisy boys that are normally behind the dugout, creating that atmosphere for us.

“I said I wouldn’t make excuses but you could see the difference and how we missed them today, they drive us forward and they will be disappointed just like we are.”

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: James Rowberry laments a missed chanceDESPAIR: James Rowberry laments a missed chance

County were on top in the first half but failed to take their chances with top scorer Dom Telford guilty of the worst miss at 0-0.

The striker felt he was pulled back before he failed to get a good enough contact when sliding in to meet a cross in the six-yard box.

“I felt as though we created enough chances to get something out of the game,” said Rowberry.

“The first goal was a bit of luck with a deflection inside the box and the second we missed tackled and didn’t defend our goal well enough.

“I don’t know how many shots they had but I felt we had enough chances in the game to get something out of it.

“The lads have been terrific since I have been here, they have given me everything, but it’s just those little moments in games and concentration that we need to get better at.

“We need to stick to what we do and how we try to build, playing through the lines and in pockets to penetrate their backline and create as many chances as we can.

“We need to continue that and focus on that, it’s just a stumbling block along the way that we need to get over quite quickly, which we will.”

County host Harrogate next weekend in their second game behind closed doors.