THE encouragement came from the home dugout when Padraig Amond's head dropped after another chance was missed.

"Keep going, Podge," urged manager Michael Flynn while clapping, knowing how important the striker has been in the run to the League Two play-offs.

Were it not for his toil, County could well have been on holiday and announcing their released and retained list rather than pushing for promotion.

Had Amond struck once then the semi-final against Forest Green Rovers wouldn't have been completely done but Sunday's trip to the New Lawn would have been a lot more comfortable.

The 33-year-old certainly wasn't the only guilty party on a wasteful night at Rodney Parade but expectations are higher for the Irishman because of his track record.

Amond fired over after just 44 seconds then early in the second half he was played in by Mickey Demetriou but, after glancing at the assistant to check the flag was down, once again failed to work Luke McGee.

The Forest Green goalkeeper was then relieved to see the striker fail the hit the target with a lob after a poor clearance, the ball landing on top of the net rather than going under the bar.

That prompted a frustrated reaction with an expletive from assistant coach Wayne Hatswell but Flynn offered encouragement after a fourth clear opening with 10 minutes to go.

Ryan Taylor played Amond in but he failed to pull the trigger, no doubt influenced by a tricky 2021 in front of goal.

DISAPPOINTED: County striker Padraig Amond reacts after a missed chance

DISAPPOINTED: County striker Padraig Amond reacts after a missed chance

It's now 12 games since he scored the clincher at Colchester, a poacher's finish at the far post that had ended an even longer barren streak of 16 fixtures.

"You can never fault Padraig Amond for effort, his determination, but he just doesn't look comfortable. He's just lacking confidence in front of goal," said Jason Perry, working at the first leg as a pundit for BBC Radio Wales.

The striker is a County legend with 59 goals in 204 games since arriving from Hartlepool; he has been the club's top scorer in all three previous seasons (he currently leads the way in 2020/21 with nine in all competitions but his League Two tally of six is less than Matty Dolan's seven).

Amond is still the man that you want on the end of chances but of late they haven't been taken.

It has been a common theme of the Exiles' season, even when they were setting the pace in the first half of the League Two campaign.

All managers would love a Paul Mullin, whose personal tally of 32 for promoted Cambridge eclipsed relegated Southend's team total of 29, but the champions show that there are other ways to head up to League One.

Cheltenham didn't have a single player that hit double figures with Alfie May their top scorer on nine, followed by Andy Williams on eight.

CELEBRATION: Padraig Amond goes to boss Michael Flynn after a superb finish at Bradford

CELEBRATION: Padraig Amond goes to boss Michael Flynn after a superb finish at Bradford

County haven't had a striker in a purple patch all season and Flynn chopped and changed his partnerships throughout.

Amond, Taylor, Nicky Maynard, Dom Telford, loanees Saikou Janneh, Jamie Proctor and Jake Scrimshaw – nobody could say they didn't get a fair crack.

In the end, the manager settled on the energy of Amond and young prospect Lewis Collins for the run-in and it paid off.

The goals suggest otherwise, with Collins' only strike before Tuesday's second coming against Scunthorpe, but the Exiles have found a method that works.

The duo have set the tone with their graft, hustling defenders, running the channels and threatening behind.

County have conceded just three goals in their last 10 games – that isn't just down to goalkeeper Tom King and the defence of Liam Shephard, Scot Bennett, Mickey Demetriou, Aaron Lewis and Ryan Haynes.

They won't want to rely on being miserly at the New Lawn on Sunday and one assumes that Flynn will once again look for his workaholic forwards to get them on the front foot.

POACHER: Padraig Amond scores for Newport County against Morecambe

Amond might not currently put 2020/21 as his finest after a disappointing strike rate in 24 starts and 18 appearances off the bench in the league.

However, the Newport icon remains as influential as ever - his exploits cannot just be measured in the goal column.

'Podge' has been pivotal in County getting to this stage, and you certainly wouldn't rule out an addition to his career highlights reel at the New Lawn or, hopefully, Wembley. He remains the man you'd like the ball to fall to.