SECTIONS of Rodney Parade may look like a beach but Newport County AFC are in quicksand in their push for promotion from League Two.

The Exiles’ slump continued with a 2-0 loss to a Forest Green Rovers side who are looking strong in their bid for League One.

The second-placed visitors hit the front on the stroke of half-time when Josh Davison was criminally given too much space to break into before he fired low past goalkeeper Nick Townsend.

The second goal was even more maddening after Josh Sheehan undercooked a backpass and Townsend brought down Jamille Matt with a wild swing.

The former County striker, who had denied them a win at the New Lawn with a late leveller and is a perfect frontman in the tough Newport conditions, made no mistake from the spot.

It’s hard enough chasing a one-goal deficit on the Parade pitch but it’s almost impossible when two down.

South Wales Argus: SECOND: Jamille Matt scores from the spotSECOND: Jamille Matt scores from the spot

Defeat leaves County in the final play-off spot with Exeter and Carlisle close behind with games in hand.

There is still hope given an extremely congested table in which Cheltenham are just three points ahead in the automatic promotion spots.

That’s why County remain contenders to go up despite form that suggests otherwise.

It’s just one win since December 8 and eight points from a possible 36. They’ve gone from setting the pace at the start of the year to clinging on in the play-offs.

Perhaps an away game and an escape from the shocking Newport surface is just what they need and Wednesday’s trip to Walsall is huge.

It could even be described as season-defining as County look to avoid the run-in being a battle for placings in mid-table.

County actually had a decent enough first half against their rivals only to be undone by a lapse close to the break.

Flynn brought Forest Green old boy Liam Shephard straight back into the starting line-up after his three-match suspension.

He slotted in on the right of a back four with Priestley Farquharson moving to the middle while there were starts for Anthony Hartigan in midfield and forwards Jake Scrimshaw and Dom Telford.

County started with a 4-3-3, keen to press up on the challenging surface that ensured it was a cagey opening.

A bit of quality from Shephard created the first chance on 10 minutes when he crept up unnoticed while Rovers were expecting a long throw before delivering a super cross that the diminutive Telford, who headed his first County goal against Exeter, nodded over the bar.

The Exiles’ got a warning in the 19th minute when they had to defend well at a corner – the delivery by left-footer Nicky Cadden was spot-on and a weapon given the surface.

South Wales Argus:

Both teams knew the value of set pieces with referee Scott Oldham given plenty of friendly advice by the players as they sought to earn the right to load the box.

Half an hour passed without a shot on target but it then took a good block by centre-back Mickey Demetriou to prevent Townsend being called into action after a Forest Green break down the left ended with Davison having a crack.

It was a bit tetchy out in the middle and there were handbags after a coming together between Hartigan and Dominic Bernard with the former booked for preventing a quick free-kick and the latter shown yellow for clobbering him.

Hitting the front was vital in the conditions but County were chasing just before the break after being undone by a simple long ball by Matt.

Forest Green hit a diagonal to the right wing and put Davison one on one with Demetriou as left-back Ryan Haynes scrambled to cover.

It was too late, the Charlton loanee cut in on his left foot and fired low into the bottom right corner. Good finish, poor defending.

It ruined a decent half and meant that the Exiles had to chase in the second half and risk being caught on the counter.

Rovers were the first team to enjoy a spell of pressure in the second half but three corners in quick succession from Cadden’s dangerous left boot.

County defended strongly to stay in the fight and Flynn made a triple change approaching the hour, bringing on a trio of experienced forwards in Padraig Amond, Kevin Ellison and Ryan Taylor.

Yet they needed a miracle when Rovers doubled their lead after 63 minutes after a calamity at the back.

Josh Sheehan underhit a pass back to Townsend and the keeper’s wild swing brought down Matt, who stuck the boot into his former side from the spot.

County tried to apply the pressure through set pieces but were unable to cause too much stress for the Rovers defence, with captain Chris Stokes and Jordan Moore-Taylor dealing with everything thrown at them.

The Exiles didn’t lack endeavour but were unable to make it a nervy finish for a side that look strong for a top-three finish.

County: Townsend, Shephard, Farquharson, Demetriou, Haynes, Sheehan, Hartigan (Lewis 73), Labadie (captain), Scrimshaw (Amond 58), Telford (Ellison 58), Maynard (Taylor 58).
Substitutes: King, Dolan, Gambin.
Yellow cards: Hartigan

Forest Green: Thomas, Bernard, Stokes (captain), Cargill, Adams, Cadden, Matt, Moore-Taylor, Whitehouse, Godwin-Malife, Davison.
Substitutes: McGee, Hutchison, Collins, Bailey, Young, Wagstaff, Richardson.
Yellow cards: Bernard
Goals: Davison

Referee: Scott Oldham.