FOR Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft it was a “horrible afternoon” but everyone connected with Newport County AFC went home with a smile on their face.

Exiles boss Michael Flynn labelled this 1-0 win, courtesy of Robbie Willmott’s first-half strike, the most satisfactory of the season – even more so than the FA Cup victories over Leicester City and Middlesbrough.

But Flitcroft couldn’t get no satisfaction, venting his fury at the tricky Rodney Parade pitch and the performance of referee Graham Salisbury.

“I have just experienced 100 minutes of horrible football from both teams,” said the Stags boss.

“It was probably one of the worst football experiences that I have had, watching a game.

“We needed to be more courageous. We needed to be braver on the ball

“But Newport take you out of your rhythm and the referee helped them with that. I don’t think he broke into a run all game to keep up with play.

“You have to have a top referee on a pitch like this. You have to be right near everything.

“He got brought in out of the cold. He shouldn’t have been refereeing – he didn’t have a game this weekend.

“It was foul after foul and we couldn’t get into any rhythm or fluidity whatsoever.”

Flitcroft felt Joss Labadie should have been sent off for a late challenge on Tyler Walker before Willmott’s 15th-minute goal, and he was adamant that they should have had a penalty late in the second half.

“For me he has missed a red card,” he told the Mansfield Chad.

“We had a broken leg two weeks ago with Hayden White and they [County] snapped down Tyler Walker.

“You want to see the mark on him just under knee. It was missed and he didn’t even give a free kick.

“Also I could hear the challenge on CJ Hamilton. It was one million per cent a penalty and he’s missed that. He has missed two massive decisions.”

South Wales Argus:

Mansfield also lost substitute Danny Rose to injury after an accidental clash of heads, which held up play for around eight minutes after the break.

“It has been a horrible afternoon and one we have got to quickly put behind us,” added Flitcroft.

“We won’t have to play on another pitch like that this season.

“Good luck to Newport in the FA Cup and credit to them. We knew their lads were playing for a place against Manchester City.”

After last week’s magnificent win over Middlesbrough to set up the dream date with Pep Guardiola’s men next Saturday, County were still on an FA Cup high as they returned to League Two action.

None more so than Willmott, who followed up his first goal of the season against Boro with his first in the league after another superbly-worked corner routine.

“It was well planned out and we work very hard to get us that little bit of advantage,” said Flynn.

“Thankfully it’s coming off at the moment because it’s nothing less than we deserve.”

Labadie also had a goal disallowed for offside before the interval and Jamille Matt almost added a second at the death but the Exiles held on throughout the 11 minutes of injury time to secure a big three points.

“We hung in there,” said Flynn, who had some words of comfort for his opposite number. “We had one goal disallowed as well, which I didn’t think was offside.

“That would have given us a bit more of a cushion, but I think the boys defended excellently when they needed to and I’m just over the moon with three points.

“Mansfield will go up this year,” he added. “They’ve got strength, good mentality, quality players, and I really think they will go up. I hope they do as well, because I don’t like going there.”

Not many opposition managers will enjoy their visits to Rodney Parade in the months to come and if County can keep their current momentum going then their own promotion hopes may not be over just yet.

County: Day; Poole, O’Brien, Demetriou; Willmott (Dolan, 88), Bennett, Bakinson, Butler; Labadie; Amond, Matt

Subs not used: Townsend, Forbes, Crofts, Sheehan, Kennedy, Marsh-Brown

Booked: Demetriou, Amond

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Attendance: 3,133 (362 Mansfield)