NEWPORT County AFC suffered a blow in their push for promotion when beaten by Cambridge United at Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon.

The U’s went to the top of League Two thanks to a header by Declan Drysdale in the 79th minute.


The loss meant County, who were frustrated that a handball in the box went unpunished in the first half, dropped a place to seventh with four clubs within striking distance with five fixtures left.

Here are the talking points from the defeat to Cambridge…

South Wales Argus:


County produced one of their best performances for weeks and moved the ball nicely against a side who look destined to go up to League One automatically.

However, they still lacked a cutting edge and their chances were largely from long range with Josh Sheehan and Aaron Lewis testing Callum Burton in the first half and Scot Bennett clipping the top of the netting.

Straight after going 1-0 down Bennett made a strong run to set up Joss Labadie for a shot that was blocked in front of goal.

But County fired a blank for the third time in six games and have struggled since the departure of Scott Twine in January, with their delivery from wide channels frequently disappointing.

That is why there is plenty of pessimism about the final weeks of the season with the fear that the goal-shy Exiles, who lack pace and power, will slip at least one more place and miss out on the play-offs.

They’ve operated in binary code too often in 2021, dealing in 0s and 1s. In 21 games since the turn of the year they have scored twice on three occasions (Oldham, Bradford, Colchester) and hit three at 10-man Morecambe.

There have been plenty calling for Luke Gambin to get a crack (myself included) but the Malta midfielder didn’t make the most of his 15-minute cameo.

Just like at Port Vale, his delivery wasn’t up to scratch and he struggled to impose himself on the game.

That being said, he’d argue that he should get a start for a proper go at hitting the heights he did on debut at Oldham.

The Exiles haven’t solved their creativity conundrum yet and if this continues then promotion would be a miracle.

South Wales Argus:


County are struggling for creativity but they did a fine job at shutting down Irish playmaker Wes Hoolahan.

That was thanks to Bennett following him everywhere and not giving him a chance to dictate play; a similar role to one that some teams have deployed against Josh Sheehan.

The 30-year-old utility man was excellent but there was more to his game that just destruction and he played his part in moving the ball nicely, had one good effort at goal and set up Labadie’s chance.

Bennett has also been in good form in defence and never lets County down, whatever the role.

The change led to Liam Shephard slotting in as a right-sided centre-back with in-form Aaron Lewis and fit-again Ryan Haynes full-backs.

It worked well against a formidable attacking team, with Mickey Demetriou the defensive glue on his 200th appearance.

South Wales Argus:


Nick Townsend’s fine season has earned a new two-year contract but this was an afternoon to forget.

The goalkeeper ensured two points were not lost with a superb save at the death against Bolton Wanderers but lost one, and the potential to push for a maximum haul, against Cambridge.

Drysdale’s header should have been easily gathered by Townsend but he contrived to let it slip under his body.

It was a shocker but the ‘keeper is well in credit for the campaign and County need him to have a strong finish given their problems at the other end.


It’s remarkable that County aren’t the ones playing catch-up in the play-off race with other teams also faltering.

On Saturday they were helped by Carlisle and Exeter being held to goalless draws at home while Bradford lost at Harrogate and Tranmere and Salford shared the spoils.

The Exiles can’t rely on things going their way and Crawley is a must-win on Tuesday, which would then ensure a draw wouldn’t be disastrous at Exeter.

There will be twists and turns over the five matchdays but County have to ensure they don’t need favours from elsewhere when they head to Southend on final day.