SO, THAT was Christmas. Another year over, a new one just begun, and how have Newport County AFC done?

Apart from that FA Cup thrashing of 10-man Wrexham, which set up this Sunday’s massive third-round clash with Leicester City at Rodney Parade, County endured a dismal December.

Nobody lost much sleep over the Checkatrade Trophy defeat on penalties at Cheltenham Town, but the Exiles have been on a miserable run in League Two since an impressive 3-1 win over Northampton Town on November 27.

Defeat at Swindon Town was followed by a washout against MK Dons and the festive fixture list provided little joy either with defeats at Lincoln Town on December 22 and at home to Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day.

Saturday’s draw with struggling Crawley Town brought a welcome and long-overdue clean sheet but missed chances meant it was another frustrating day for manager Michael Flynn and his players, as well as the home fans.

There were even a few boos at the final whistle as County ended 2018 in 10th position in League Two, four points off the play-off places with a game in hand.

Flynn admitted afterwards that he shares the fans’ frustrations but he also appealed for some perspective as he reflected on the progress that has been made as he marked 100 games in charge of his hometown club.

Given that the Exiles were seemingly doomed to relegation when he took over in March 2017, it’s safe to say that they are in a better place now than they were 22 months ago.

County are now looking like a mid-table team at their worst and promotion candidates at their best.

Statistically speaking, they ended 2018 ranked 35th out of 92 Premier League and Football League clubs.

In the 45 league fixtures they completed last year, Flynn’s men recorded 17 wins, 13 draws and 15 defeats.

That gives them an average of 1.42 points per game – the seventh-best record in League Two over the last 12 months.

That compares to the Exiles’ ranking of 89th in 2016, when they claimed 0.91 points per game, and last year’s 48th-place (the 12th best in League Two) with 1.37 points per game.

And those stats don’t take into account the extraordinary feats achieved in the FA Cup under Flynn with the win over Leeds United and two fantastic battles with Tottenham Hotspur 12 months ago and a date with the 2016 Premier League champions to look forward to on Sunday.

Asked about the job that Flynn has done as he notched up 100 games in charge on Saturday, Dan Butler was fulsome in his praise..

The defender, who suffered through some dark days under Warren Feeney and Graham Westley, told iFollow Exiles: “We’re all here because of the gaffer – we all want to play for him and the club.

“He’s given us all opportunities to play in this team and this league and we appreciate that.

“The change has been massive since he came in. When he took over, we were rock bottom of the league but then survived on the last day with the Great Escape, which I still think was a miracle.

“Then, we’ve progressed on and on and I think that shows now that we’re so disappointed that we are where we are in League Two.

“We’re going to keep working hard as a team and as a club then hopefully the results will come.”

There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement in 2019.

County scored 58 goals in 45 league games last year, and Flynn will tell you they should have had many more.

And they conceded 70, giving them a goal difference of -12 for the year.

That compares to -5 for the 49 games played in 2017 (although it was -7 after the first 12 games before Flynn was appointed) and -22 in a traumatic 2016 under Feeney and Westley.

The January transfer window is now open and we can expect Flynn to strengthen the back line and probably also in central midfield, where injuries to Joss Labadie and Andrew Crofts have not helped the defensive problems.

County also need to avoid a repeat of the loss of form they suffered after the Spurs games in January and February if they are to keep in touch with the top seven.

But, despite the frustrations of the past five weeks, there should be plenty of room for optimism as we begin a new year today.

With the right additions this month, 2019 could well be a year to remember for the Exiles.