NEWPORT County AFC’s promotion challenge turned into a push for the play-offs after they paid the price for an awful first half against Crawley.

The Red condemned the Exiles to a third successive home defeat thanks to goals in the first half by Ashley Nadesan and Ludwig Francillette.

County got themselves back in the game when James Waite finished off a lovely move approaching the hour but they failed to take their chances for a leveller, with Rob Street going closest when he flicked a free header just wide.

James Rowberry’s side dropped out of the play-off spots for eighth and their chances of putting the heat on third-placed Port Vale are now realistically over.

Here are the talking points from Rodney Parade…


County should have stolen a point but it wouldn’t have been deserved. They didn’t merit a maximum haul at Swindon six days earlier, so at least they are in credit over the last two games.

The Exiles were awful in the first half, comfortably the worst 45 minutes of the James Rowberry era and probably as bad as they were when they went into the break 3-0 down at Salford in August.

County lacked the snap, spark, accuracy and control that has been a feature of their play while they were let down by the basics with both goals horrendous from a defensive point of view.

In contrast, Crawley were excellent. Chapeau to the Reds’ front three of Kwesi Appiah, Nadesan and Tom Nichols, who caused all manner of problems.

South Wales Argus: County boss James Rowberry with coaches Jim Hollman and Jarred HarveyCounty boss James Rowberry with coaches Jim Hollman and Jarred Harvey


County head to Sutton on Monday and the first half of this encounter was similar to the first 45 against the Us in December which ended in a dramatic 3-2 win.

On that occasion Rowberry acted decisively at half-time by bringing off Ryan Haynes but this time he gave the XI a shot at redemption with a few tactical alterations.

Perhaps on reflection he will feel that a change of personnel was the right option because County pretty much wasted 15 minutes before the introduction of Rob Street made a difference.

County needed a spark and this felt like the perfect opportunity for the reintroduction of veteran Kevin Ellison, a man who has his limitations but also has the ability to shake things up and disrupt the opposition.

The Exiles’ form has dropped off recently but they have stuck with the 4-2-2-2. It will be interesting if the flexibility that meant they dabbled with the 3-5-2 of last season returns at the end of the campaign, or perhaps changes of shape is something to work on when Rowberry & Co get their teeth into a new-look squad over the summer.


The headline stat is that it’s now nine games without a goal for Dom Telford, who is set to win League Two’s golden boot.

However, he lived off scraps for much of the first half but his running in the channels was key to County having a chance of snatching a point.

Telford’s assist for Waite was a cracker with a perfectly-timed run and a calm ball for the midfielder to finish expertly.

At times the striker’s delivery could be better but this was a game that emphasised he is about more than goals.

Telford also fired in four shots and was denied with an outrageous long-range effort that forced a fine save from Glenn Morris, who stayed calm to move his feet well and then palm the ball up at full stretch.

Fingers crossed County’s 20-goal forward have saved some key strikes for the run-in.

South Wales Argus: TALENT: Finn Azaz is a marked manTALENT: Finn Azaz is a marked man


County have been a threat all season thanks to Aston Villa prospect Finn Azaz, James Waite arrived in January from the Cymru Premier as a bit of a long-term project but has stepped up in the absence of the sorely-missed Ollie Cooper while Liverpool midfielder Jake Cain has developed impressively over the course of the campaign.

Taking the rough with the smooth comes with the territory when a club brings in a talented youngster on loan.

County have enjoyed plenty more good afternoons than tough out of their young prospects, with Azaz in particular having to cope with being a marked man.

They didn’t stamp their authority on the game against Crawley, especially in the first half, but that’s part of the learning process.

Other clubs will profit from that, but that’s the nature of it for a fourth-tier team.


County’s play-off fate is no longer in their own hands and they need a near-perfect finish at the very least to make the top seven.

They have lost three home games on the spin and need to end that with a maximum six points from Colchester and Rochdale.

That needs to be combined with a win at either seventh-placed Sutton or third-placed Port Vale, who will be hoping to have a promotion party.

County were the victims of a team upsetting the odds despite having little to play for on paper, now they need some favours.

The Exiles need a strong finish and if they manage to get eight points then they will eclipse last season’s tally, which was a record since the club’s return to the Football League.

If that’s not enough, fair play to the others.

Come May 8, County could well feel it was a missed chance to make the play-offs but it won’t be as bad as 2022, when they blew a golden opportunity to go straight up after being in a very strong position at the turn of the year.