A VIRTUOSO display from visiting goalkeeper Mark Cousins put the nails in the coffin of Newport County’s promotion push.

Despite being the better side for all but a ten minute period where the visitors scored with their first three efforts on goal, the incredible performance from Cousins who made four incredible saves, kept Newport at bay.

And by the time the Exiles finally did beat the goalkeeper, the damage had been done in terms of a result that gives Dack’s men too much ground to make up in the final two contests of the campaign.

The Exiles are a trim squad at the best of times with a clear lack of depth, but that was never better emphasised than against Dagenham with the Exiles’ treatment room providing half an unavailable team.

Darren Jones, Ismail Yakubu, Andrew Hughes, Max Porter, Lee Minshull and Robbie Willmott all hurt and striker Chris Zebroski sadly sacked and beginning a prison term.

That’s seven senior players not available for a crucial contest, but the Exiles were at least able to slot players largely into their preferred positions with the ranks so depleted.

Newport went 3-5-2 against Wayne Burnett’s men, the Daggers boss a close friend of both Jimmy Dack and ex-County boss Justin Edinburgh, who set his stall out by setting up 4-5-1 and with men behind the ball being the order of the day.

However, Newport have developed a habit of starting slowly at Rodney Parade and presented the visitors with a great early chance to strike when a long ball over the top sent Andre Boucaud clear on just two minutes, but he was denied by a splendid last-ditch tackle by 16-year old Regan Poole. He’s one of our own, chanted the Amber Army.

The Exiles took a while to get going and were restricted to half efforts, but Yan Klukowski did flash wide with a first time volley after nice combination play between Mark Byrne and Ryan Jackson. Boy will County be relieved to have Byrne signed up for next term.

The visitors were playing for little more than pride and their flat 4-5-1 stifled the Exiles, Dagenham defending deep and using their aerial advantage to frustrate Newport, let down time and time again in the first period by their final ball.

It wasn’t until the stroke of half time when Newport really looked like breaking the deadlock, the Essex outfit failing to clear a corner as the Exiles kept the ball moving, Poole’s firmly struck cross to the far post met fully by Byrne, but Mark Cousins did brilliantly to stick out an arm and maintain the parity, repelling the ball over the bar.

However, if that was impressive his save just past the hour was stunning, amazingly tipping Aaron O’Connor’s close-range effort onto the crossbar after a typically barnstorming run by Ryan Jackson.

Suddenly the noise level in Rodney Parade was cranked up, but that only seemed to inspire the visiting goalkeeper who was at it again, amazingly tipping Regan Poole’s firm volley from an Adam Chapman corner just over the bar.

Byrne then went clear and was denied by a defender as the Exiles poured forward, but they were to be caught in the cruelest manner.

There seemed little danger when County conceded a highly debatable freekick with just over ten minutes remaining, but Ashley Hemmings got his head to the ball and powered the visitors in front, the first Daggers stab at goal in the entire contest.

And things soon got worse, Christian Doidge grabbing a second on the counter attack as Newport exposed themselves by over committing in attack, a cruelly ironic scorer for a side lacking goals.

Doidge is a Gwent boy and was recommended to the Exiles by Mark Aizelwood, but didn’t earn a contract in the summer and ended up at the Essex outfit instead. He who laughs last as they say.

The Exiles to their credit pushed until the final whistle, but when Cousins made a fourth fantastic save to deny Klukowski, the writing was on the wall, a point underlined when sub Alex Jukubiak added a third, giving the visitors a 100% goal to shots on target ratio.

It ends any hopes of a play-off berth, meaning a stunning solo effort from David Tutonda in the final seconds couldn’t even put a smile on Newport faces, nor the even later effort from Aaron O’Connor that at least gave County respectability.

Newport: (3-5-2): Day, Feely, Poole, Sandell, Jackson, Tutonda, Chapman (Parker 82), Byrne, Klukowski, O’Connor, Storey (Collins 87).

Subs not used: Stephens, Jeffers, Flynn, Patten, Owen-Evans Booked: Dagenham: (4-5-1): Cousins, Partridge, Widdowstone, Doe, Gayle, Howell, Hemmings (Chambers 87), Raymond (Doidge 76), Ogogo, Boucaud, Cureton Subs not used: Moore, Yusuff, Connors, Jones Booked: Referee: Andy Woolmer Attendance: 2736