IT’S exactly a year since Newport County AFC last hosted Exeter City and a lot has changed at Rodney Parade in that time.

Paul Tisdale’s side enjoyed a thumping 4-1 victory in Newport on New Year’s Eve 2016 to leave County rooted to the bottom of the table with just 17 points from 22 games.

But the Grecians should expect no gifts when they return to the city tomorrow afternoon.

Michael Flynn’s men will begin 2018 in 11th position with 36 points from 25 games.

They are just four points below the play-off places and six off fourth-placed Exeter.

Flynn was frustrated not to have claimed a 10th victory of the League Two season on Saturday after seeing his side pegged back by Cheltenham Town following Padraig Amond’s delightful opening goal on 55 minutes.

The hosts levelled through a route-one goal from the impressive Mo Eisa on 77 minutes and both sides had chances to win the match but it was Frank Nouble who went closest in the final minute.

The striker’s fierce drive was spectacularly saved by the fingertips of Scott Flinders and County had to settle for a point in their final game of 2017.

The 1-1 final scoreline was a repeat of their last visit to Whaddon Road in the dying days of Graham Westley’s reign in February.

After taking over the following month, Flynn has transformed his hometown club from relegation certainties to outsiders in the play-off race.

And he believes 2018 can be even better than 2017 if he gets the backing he feels he needs in this month’s transfer window.

“It’s been a better second half of the year than it was in the first half,” he said on Saturday.

“We came to Cheltenham in February and we were as good as relegated. We’ve improved by a huge amount.”

South Wales Argus:

The boss wants to add up to four new signings over the coming weeks to further improve a squad that is currently stretched to the limit by injury, illness and suspension.

Key men Mark O’Brien and Joss Labadie both missed Saturday’s match after recent red cards, while Matty Dolan and Ben Tozer both played despite suffering with a sickness bug.

“It was a toss-up over what we did with Matty and Ben Tozer,” added Flynn.

“That’s why Matty came off – he was weak but, fair play to him, he never hid and he still wanted to get on the football.”

Labadie will return from his ban tomorrow and could replace Tom Owen-Evans, who started his first league match since September at the weekend.

“I thought he did very well,” said the boss. “We could see at the end his youthful exuberance when maybe I needed an older head.

“I don’t like making excuses but the facts are we had two of our influential players suspended.

“Ben was ill, Matty was ill, Sean Rigg is injured – we had six on the bench and two of them were kids.

“We wanted to change it at the end because I thought it was a little bit open in the midfield and I wanted to shut that up and we couldn’t do it.

“I wasn’t on the bench but I honestly would have been tempted to do it [bring himself on] because of the way it was going.

“I would have just sat in there and headed and kicked it.”

He won’t be tempted to name himself on the bench today, however.

“No,” laughed the 37-year-old, who last played in February. “I haven’t trained for a while now and I had a few turkeys for Christmas!”

Flynn’s future is in the technical area and he and his team can look forward to a very happy New Year.

County: Day; Pipe, White, Demetriou, Butler; Willmott, Bennett, Dolan (Tozer, 68), Owen-Evans; Amond, Nouble (McCoulsky, 90)

Subs not used: Bittner, Foulston, Reynolds, Touray

Booked: Nouble

Referee: Antony Coggins

Attendance: 3,637 (916 County)