NEWPORT County’s players have maintained to a man that they are behind caretaker boss Jimmy Dack and want to see him stay in charge at Rodney Parade on a permanent basis, but that seemed like lip service during Saturday’s lacklustre display.

Forget notions of bogey sides and bad luck and misfortune like in previous losses to Morecambe, because you can chalk this one down to a poor performance leading to a poor result, with little room for debate.

The Exiles shouldn’t have been short on confidence, would have been feeling fresh after no midweek fixtures and had almost a fully fit squad to choose from, mitigating excuses for what was one of, if not the, worst home display from them all season.

Not until substitute Robbie Willmott clattered a speculative effort at visiting goalkeeper Andreas Arestidou five minutes after the interval did the Exiles even muster a shot on target, a feat they barely repeated, save for a late cross that turned into a shot that this reporter would have gathered cleanly.

That’s not good enough for a side with promotion aspirations, especially against an outfit that had just lost at home to Dagenham and have been in rotten recent form.

The Exiles will point to the amount of corners they forced, which reached double figures, to their possession, near enough 60% and to the fact that the second half was played almost entirely in Morecambe’s half, but they are all meaningless statistics if you fail to turn pressure into tangible chances, which Newport were certainly guilty of.

Dack has explained that he’s not married to any formation and will change County’s system depending on the opponents, but the Exiles simply don’t have the personnel to play an orthodox 4-4-2.

Not since the days of Charlie Henry and Kerry Morgan have County possessed genuine wingers and in abandoning 4-4-2 for the entirety of Justin Edinburgh’s reign, his assistant doesn’t have the players to go back to it now.

Both Miles Storey and Yan Klukowski looked wasted and frustrated on the flanks and County are also sacrificing their greatest attacking weapon in not finding a starting role for Adam Chapman.

Not only is 4-4-2 harming the Exiles in terms of their attacking shape, but they also look more vulnerable defensively, because Darren Jones can be found wanting for pace. He’ll adjust, but with the odd defensive lapse more likely, Newport need to be firing on all cylinders in attack.

And therein lies County’s current biggest issue and the aspect most likely to prevent them reclaiming a top seven berth in League Two, a complete and utter lack of firepower.

The dream of seeing Aaron O’Connor and Chris Zebroski both fit and on form and playing together over a sustained period seems destined to remain in the “I wish,” category for Exiles fans and those vying with them for a spot in the side are failing to produce the goods.

Shaun Jeffers has come back from Brackley an improved physical specimen and looks ready for professional football, but what he doesn’t look like, and never has for Newport, is a goalscorer.

And if Jeffers’ form is concerning, Rene Howe’s is positively frightening, County’s number nine like a reverse Danny Crow, seemingly hardly ever on the winning side for the Exiles and struggling to show even glimpses of the career form that prompted Edinburgh to sign him.

Howe has battled back from a serious injury and is in the best shape he’s been since arriving just over a year ago, but we’ve yet to see even two or three good performances on the spin from him.

His hold-up play and endeavour at Wycombe drew praise, but he was a passenger on Saturday, ineffective and off the pace when County had the ball and seemingly disinterested when they didn’t, the kind of performance fans rightly tend to get aggravated with.

It was Jeffers who was the central figure in County’s brightest moment, when he touched home Willmott’s fierce centre, only to see the goal ruled out for offside.

Dack would state after the match that he’d seen the replay and Jeffers didn’t get a touch and therefore referee Andy D’Urso – who in making a debut at Rodney Parade has now officiated at all 92 Football League grounds – made a mistake.

However, Jeffers told the Argus after the game he did touch the ball, meaning Mr D’Urso was correct to chalk off an equaliser Newport probably deserved, but conversely never looked likely to get.

That came after a first period where the Exiles did all the running but were caught cold by Morecambe’s only positive advance, Jack Redshaw’s impressive eighth minute strike proving the difference.

It meant yet another defeat to Morecambe – that’s now four on the spin – and the Exiles are unlikely to find things much easier next time out with a daunting trip to Burton Albion on their horizon.

Newport County: Day, Jackson, Tutonda, Jones, Yakubu, Porter (Chapman 71), Byrne, Klukowski (Willmott 47), Storey, Jeffers (Zebroski 65), Howe

Subs not used: Stephens, Feely, Minshull, Flynn

Booked: Jackson, Zebroski

Morecambe: Arestidou, Beeley, Kenyon (Wright 82), Hughes, Edwards, Redshaw (Mullin 71), Williams (Amond 65), Ellison, Goodall, Wilson, Parrish

Subs not used: Jones, Devitt, Sampson, McGowan

Booked: Parrish,

Referee: Andy D’Urso

Attendance: 2883 (away 72)