NEWPORT County AFC are without a win in three games after losing 2-0 to Salford City at a near-empty Rodney Parade.

The Exiles suffered defeat in their return to football behind closed doors after conceding on the stroke of half-time and early in the second.


The Ammies hit the front when Finn Azaz deflected a Josh Morris cross/shot into his net for an own goal then Brandon Thomas-Asante was given too much time to slot six minutes after the restart.

The Exiles remain seventh but their rivals have games in hand. Here are some of the talking points…

South Wales Argus: County faced Salford behind closed doorsCounty faced Salford behind closed doors


County endured playing behind closed doors for the first time since last season and it’s likely that the Amber Army will be locked out until at least February.

The players have got the shock out of their system now – the lack of noise greeting their arrival on the pitch, the absence of encouragement as they trot forward for a corner – and desperately need professional performances and wins when they host Harrogate and Barrow this month.

What a return to a near-empty Rodney Parade did do was highlight the style of manager James Rowberry; we’ve all seen him being animated on the touchline but made his advice, encouragement and admonishments loud and clear.

There was no hiding place for Cameron Norman when sloppiness led to a series of set plays in the first half, Finn Azaz was urged to do better when wasteful on the ball, everybody was loudly told to press, press and press.

A telling moment came at 2-0 on 73 minutes when the Exiles were hunting a goal to give them a sniff.

“Lewis, run behind!” demanded Rowberry as County countered only for young forward Collins to instead come short.

Midfielder Robbie Willmott told the substitute what he should have done in rather more blunt terms and got a terse response only for the boss to intervene with “He’s right, Lewis”.

Some County players will be especially keen for the return of fans.

South Wales Argus: OFF TARGET: In-form Dom Telford failed to take a golden early chanceOFF TARGET: In-form Dom Telford failed to take a golden early chance


County have fallen behind in their last four games at Rodney Parade, fighting back to beat Sutton and Port Vale but losing to Swindon and Salford.

It was undoubtedly a poor performance against the Ammies but things should have been different after a spell of pressure in the first half that created a handful of chances.

Dom Telford should have scored when Ollie Cooper drove in a cross from the right but the striker didn’t get the desired connection and hit the ball back across goal to allow former Exiles ‘keeper Tom King to save.

Rowberry is correct when said it would have been a penalty for a shirt pull if there was VAR but, safe in the knowledge that there is no footage, it was the sort of defending that you like to see if it’s your team.

Theo Vassell got something on the in-form forward and put him under sufficient pressure to affect the shot. It should still have been number 18 for the season for Telford.

He then failed to net from a driven Azaz cross that was just behind him and Courtney Baker-Richardson should have done better from a Cooper ball, with the mitigation of the attempted assist being too powerful.

County were nowhere near their best but should still have hit the front and made Salford chase.


From the off Rowberry has not been afraid to field the loan trio of Jake Cain, Ollie Cooper and Finn Azaz in front of Robbie Willmott.

Cooper and Azaz are regulars and Cain was brought in for a first start since October.

The manager knows his onions and is confident that they can mix it in League Two when put in the team together, as they did in the 5-0 win against a poor Stevenage.

Yet the loan trio are all a little too nice and things looked better when Scot Bennett was brought on to add some snap and industry.

I’d always find room in the team for Bennett, whether as one of the centre-backs in a 3-5-2 or in midfield whatever the shape.

The Cornishman is a solid League Two player who not only hits 6 or 7/10 with regularity but allows others to hit 8s.

We’ll see if another midfielder comes into the mix in the coming days.


There is no need to panic but it has been an alarming spell for County.

They did the business to fight back for wins against Sutton and Port Vale but performances have dipped in defeat to Rochdale and Salford either side of the draw at Walsall, who were more than good value for a late point.

Rowberry has some thinking to do with a number of players knocking on the door for a spot in the XI.

Bennett’s attributes are covered above while wing-back Ryan Haynes adds balance down the left.

The defence has been leaky and there is an argument for freshening up the forward line with Alex Fisher, Timmy Abraham and Collins hoping for a crack next to Telford.

Rowberry and his coaches have thinking to do.