NEWPORT County AFC’s play-off hopes are hanging by a thread after a 1-0 loss to League Two promotion rivals Sutton United.

The Exiles had the better of the clash at Gander Green Lane but slipped to defeat after a Rob Milsom penalty on the stroke of half-time.

County had their chances with James Waite and Matty Dolan denied in the first half before opportunities went begging in the scramble for the equaliser.

Sutton defender Louis John shanked a clearance against the inside of the right post after a Joe Day clearance but the foul in the box by Scot Bennett on David Ajiboye proved to be the decisive moment.

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It felt like the promotion bid was definitely over when the final whistle went in south London but then a glance at the table offered some slim hope.

County remain in the mix and will climb back into the play-off spots if they can beat Colchester on Friday night.

That will be temporary and the Exiles could even be mathematically out of the running by the time they kick off against Port Vale on Monday, May 2.

They've got to hope that results go their way to stay alive by Rochdale on last day, when pressure can do funny things.

However, it feel like the Easter weekend has killed off their play-off hopes and that Rowberry will be starting his planning for a League Two campaign on May 8.

Ultimately it has been the three-game losing streak at Rodney Parade that has cost them.

South Wales Argus: DROUGHT: Dom Telford is grafting hard but hasn't scored in 10DROUGHT: Dom Telford is grafting hard but hasn't scored in 10


Rowberry got booked after complaining about only four minutes being added in Sutton.

He was right to grumble - goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis was booked for time-wasting, there were other warnings, the physios had been on and there were four second-half substitutions.

However, six, seven or eight minutes would have merely prolonged County's pain.

This was an afternoon when it just felt they were destined not to score... and there have been too many of them lately.

Dom Telford's strikes fired County up the league and the player of the year contender has contributed 38 per cent of their goals.

He hasn't been on the scoresheet in 10 games and the Exiles fired blanks at Bradford and against Exeter, burgled a win at Swindon when having one shot on target and failed to take their chances in the costly 2-1 loss to Crawley.

They were dominant throughout at Sutton but this felt like it would be a story of frustration from early in the second half, one similar to last season's goal-shy run-in.

County fired in 13 shots but hit the target just three times, all of them in the first half.

The closest they came was when John looped the ball against his own post – but the day was summed up by the rebound falling to a defender rather than Telford.

A bit more quality has been needed in the final third and it can’t be denied that the absence of injured Swansea loanee Ollie Cooper has hit County hard.

Teams have done their homework on the Exiles and are stopping their dangermen getting in pockets of space and playing on the turn.

County are a team that could dish out a thrashing if they hit the front but that opener has proved elusive in this costly streak.

South Wales Argus: SUPERB: Matty Dolan impressed on his return to the XISUPERB: Matty Dolan impressed on his return to the XI


County came up short yet they couldn’t be accused of lacking fight – for once it was the opposition fans complaining about the rough stuff.

The Exiles gave as good as they got against a well-drilled, uncompromising Sutton side who relished the niggly stuff off the ball.

At one stage Rob Street had to show composure not to react on his return to south London when the Crystal Palace loanee was having his foot trodden on by a defender while waiting for a throw-in right in front of the fourth official.

County put themselves about and Matty Dolan put in an excellent performance on his return to the starting line-up.

Last season he was superb at the heart of the defence but in Sutton he controlled things from midfield.

Might not have the mobility of Jake Cain or Robbie Willmott but has the physicality and presence to go along with calmness on the ball.

One strange approach though, albeit one no doubt shaped by Sutton’s strengths.

It was Finn Azaz that delivered outswingers from corners on the right rather than Dolan, whose inswinger led to the Demetriou header at Carlisle. The left-footer delivered from the other flank.

Dolan is under contract for next season and if the 29-year-old does remain under Rowberry then he can still be an influential figure, even if he isn’t a 46-game starter.