NEWPORT County AFC’s miserable run continued at Harrogate Town on Saturday afternoon when they suffered a 2-1 defeat.

The Exiles were hoping to end a seven-game streak without success but instead the wait for a win will continue for at least another week.

County hit the front after 17 minutes when Luke Gambin’s shot from a corner went in off Jake Scrimshaw but they once again failed to hang onto a lead.

Josh March levelled from a long ball after 34 minutes and Harrogate got the lead their pressure deserved when Aaron Martin headed home from a corner after 66 minutes.

County were then reduced to 10 men when Liam Shephard was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Simon Power and they were denied an undeserved point when Ryan Taylor’s 90th minute shot was cleared off the line.

Here are the talking points from the humbling in Harrogate…


Before coming to some events from the 90 minutes, it’s probably best to jump straight in with the state of play in League Two.

The table is worrying after a nightmare January that has seen County slip from top to seventh, clinging onto a play-off berth.

How we laughed in November when Richie Wellens was grouchily stating that the Exiles were nowhere near the standard of last season’s promoted sides.

The grumpy Salford boss is incapable of a smile but he’d be getting close to one if the Ammies didn’t have their own problems.

County are winless in eight and have taken just four points from a possible 24. On successive Saturdays they have lost at teams who had shocking home records before welcoming the Exiles.

The performances have dropped off a cliff – they look sluggish, lack creativity, are shaky at the back and the fluidity has gone.

County weren’t as good as we all hoped at the start of December but they aren’t as bad as they are playing at the moment.

Automatic promotion is still a possibility but the Exiles have to flick the switch again, with the return of Josh Sheehan hopefully helping on that front.

Manager Michael Flynn won’t be panicking but nor will he be blind to the problems of the past seven weeks.

County made a habit of edging narrow games in September and October. Nobody would care if February was full of winning ugly, starting against Grimsby on Saturday.

South Wales Argus: TOO EASY: County were undone by a long ball for Josh March's levellerTOO EASY: County were undone by a long ball for Josh March's leveller


County haven't won in eight League Two games but the last three performances have been especially worrying.

They have created very little and the defence has been shaky. There seem to be issues down the left and the leveller by March was similar to Matty Blair's goal for Cheltenham.

On both occasions County were undone by a simple flick-on from a long ball; a lost header and a sluggish reaction. Oldham’s winner also came after too much space down that left flank.

The Exiles defence was under stress all afternoon - they had two warnings just before the equaliser - with Harrogate playing with pace and energy up front but also putting themselves about.

"We've missed Scott Twine and Brandon Cooper, big time,” said Flynn. "At the minute I'd say we are missing Brandon more than anybody.

"That's hard but if loan players do well then it's likely that they will be called back or sold on.”

David Longe-King has done pretty well since replacing Cooper but he is an EFL novice. The same will apply for Priestley Farquharson after his move from Connah’s Quay Nomads.

South Wales Argus: OFF: Liam Shephard trudges to the County changing room after his red cardOFF: Liam Shephard trudges to the County changing room after his red card


Decisions even themselves out, we are told. So it would appear after the team that ended with 10 men lost 2-1 in a fixture between Newport and Harrogate.

At Rodney Parade it was a harsh red for Josh Falkingham that helped County’s cause but this time they were hindered.

There was some debate on Twitter about whether Liam Shephard deserved to be dismissed but I believe it was the correct call.

The right wing-back didn’t catch Power but it was two-footed and reckless. It certainly wasn’t a howler by referee Christopher Pollard, so an appeal would seem pointless.

It is now three red cards in four games for County, all of them to seasoned campaigners in Shephard, Josh Sheehan and Joss Labadie.

This dismissal wasn’t as costly as Labadie’s seven days earlier, which came after just 14 minutes in Oldham and left them right up against it.

County were already 2-1 down when Shephard was shown red and they had been so bad that a comeback looked unlikely even with 11.

But the suspension of a player who has arguably been the star of the season so far will hurt badly.

One man who will be pleased is Ashley Baker, whose patience could be rewarded with a trio of starts. It could also lead to Shephard coming back refreshed and ready to finish the season as strongly as he started it.

South Wales Argus: WELCOME BACK: Josh Sheehan's suspension is overWELCOME BACK: Josh Sheehan's suspension is over


The return of Josh Sheehan – provided nobody hits his buy-out clause before the transfer deadline – can’t come too soon.

County need a bit more guile, creativity and intelligence to make the most of the forward options that they have.

Hopefully he will be helped on that front by loan signings Anthony Hartigan, who needs time to settle, and Luke Gambin, who has started strongly but will get sharper.

The Exiles have loads of options up front but only one of them, Ryan Taylor, is a rough and tumble target man.

They can’t feed off scraps and long, hopeful balls aren’t going to help any of the strikers go on a much-needed hot streak.

County have played four games since the FA Cup loss to Brighton and had just 17 shots. That's a figure that they were hitting in 90 minutes when things were going so well in the autumn.

The Exiles can't let their season be derailed by the loss of Scott Twine.

Other players have to fill the void, because a strong February will reignite hopes of League One football in 2021.