NEPORT County AFC defender Dan Butler was delighted to receive the South Wales Argus player of the year trophy after what he described as “the most amazing, scary experience of my whole life.”

Butler was a key part of the Exiles team that completed the Great Escape with victory over Notts County last Saturday, courtesy of Mark O’Brien’s 89th-minute winner.

It was a nerve-racking end to the season for fans and players alike and the left-back admitted that the tension was almost unbearable after Hartlepool United had taken the lead against Doncaster Rovers.

That meant County were on the brink of losing their Football League status before O’Brien volleyed in the winner to spark wild celebrations inside Rodney Parade and throughout the city that night.

“I’m obviously pleased to get any individual award, it’s always nice,” said the 22-year-old, who came out ahead of Joe Day and Alex Samuel in the Argus readers’ poll.

“But I’m mainly happy that we stayed up as a team and as a club, for the fans and everyone involved.

“It has been a tough season but over the past two months as a club and as a team we’ve come together and we’ve stuck together.

“I don’t think we felt the pressure as a team probably until the last 10 minutes on Saturday.

“But we got the job done in the end and that’s the main thing.”

Recalling that never-to-be-forgotten finale against Notts County, Butler said: “It was the most amazing, scary experience of my whole life!

“I just remember running up to Joe Day and telling him that Hartlepool were winning and then the next thing I remember is running after Mark O’Brien and trying to catch him after that goal. It was just amazing.

“And the celebrations afterwards were incredible. We were in a pub and everyone was singing the gaffer’s name and then somebody set off an orange smoke bomb.

“It was great to get together with the fans and let our hair down.”

Butler made 46 appearances this season and scored three goals – a consolation in defeat at Stevenage in January, a spectacular striker as Hartlepool were beaten at Rodney Parade in January and the crucial leveller at Crewe Alexandra in Michael Flynn’s first game as caretaker manager.

And, despite enduring an up and down start to the campaign under Warren Feeney and then Graham Westley, Butler has flourished since Flynn took charge.

“I’m still young and I’m still learning a lot about myself as a player and as a person and what I need to do in certain situations,” he said.

“It hasn’t been easy but I’ve always given my all and I feel like I’ve done well over the past few months.

“I’ve got a contract for next year and I’m looking forward to hopefully carrying on this good thing we’ve got going on and taking it into next season.

“Hopefully we can keep the squad together we will do well. We’ve got good chemistry as a team. We work well together and we enjoy working together so hopefully we can carry that on.”

Asked about Butler’s award, Flynn said: “He’s a lovely kid, he’s great to have around the place.

“He’s improving and he’s still at a good age so I’m over the moon for him.

“I can’t remember who won the other awards because it was all a blur on Saturday night but congratulations to them.”