A SHOCKING 5-0 defeat at Mansfield Town leaves Newport County AFC with a mountain to climb if they are to force their way back into the League Two play-off race.

Michael Flynn and his men scaled their own Everest to complete the Great Escape from relegation last season and it will take a similar run of form over the next few months if they are to trouble the top seven this time round.

And they will have to improve tenfold on this embarrassing showing if they are to avoid sliding further down the table.

After the pride at Wembley came the fall at the One Call Stadium.

County were supposed to be well rested after Saturday’s home clash with Forest Green Rovers was postponed but they looked half asleep as the rampant Stags tore into them from the start.

Alfie Potter didn’t even appear to celebrate as he completed his hat-trick just after the hour-mark to make it 5-0 – a repeat of the Exiles’ thumping defeat on the same ground in the dog days of Anthony Hudson’s brief reign in 2011.

The match was long over as a meaningful contest by that stage and it was merely a damage limitation exercise for the visitors.

They never really recovered from a dreadful start, which saw them 2-0 down inside the first 10 minutes.

Danny Rose opened the scoring from close range in the sixth minute and Potter doubled the hosts’ advantage three minutes later as he found the corner of the net after a blistering run and cutback from the impressive CJ Hamilton on the left flank.

County have not won at Field Mill since a 4-3 opening-day victory in the Conference in August 2012 and you have to go back all the way to 1939 for their last Football League success at the oldest professional ground in the world.

And, even with 80 minutes left on the clock, there appeared very little chance of them improving their record in this corner of Nottinghamshire.

There was a brief flicker of hope for the shell-shocked 57 travelling fans as skipper Joss Labadie had the ball in the net on 22 minutes but the flag was up for offside.

And that was as good as it got for Flynn’s men as Potter added his second of the night to pretty much settle the match after 28 minutes.

Mal Benning and Hamilton combined down the left and Rose hit the bar before Potter pounced on the rebound to poke home.

And it was 4-0 before half-time as Potter’s corner fell to Alex MacDonald, who drilled his shot through the crowd and past Day from 12 yards.

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Flynn had no choice but to shake things up for the second half and he introduced Mark O’Brien and Marlon Jackson for Matty Dolan and Frank Nouble after the break.

Ben Tozer soon replaced the injured Scot Bennett as well but the changes had little effect and Mansfield continued to dominate.

Rhys Bennett hit the post and Kane Hemmings missed a glorious chance before Potter’s deflected strike made it 5-0 on 61 minutes.

And, while County never gave up, they rarely looked like even grabbing a consolation goal.

MacDonald hit the side netting and Day denied Rose and Adam King with a brilliant double save before also stopping a point-blank shot from substitute Ricky Miller and a spectacular long-range effort from King.

It could easily have been seven or eight on a night to forget for the Exiles.

A third successive defeat in the league means they are now seven points below the play-off places.

It has been a very tough fixture list in recent weeks and Flynn and his team will need to make the most of the home comforts at Rodney Parade over the next few weeks if they are to prevent a season of such promise from unravelling.

County: Day; Pipe, White, Demetriou, Butler; Bennett (Tozer, 58), Dolan (O’Brien, 46); Willmott, Labadie, Nouble (Jackson, 46); Amond

Subs not used: Bittner, Reid, Tozer, Sheehan, McCoulsky

Referee: Ben Toner

Attendance: 2,866 (57 County)

Argus star man: Day