MANAGER James Rowberry believes Newport County AFC have been a victim of their own success in attack after seeing their promotion bid hit the skids.

The Exiles’ hopes of making the League Two play-offs are hanging by a thread after Monday’s 1-0 loss at Sutton.

They will climb back into the top seven if they beat Colchester at Rodney Parade on Friday but, with rivals having games in hand, could be out of contention by the time they next play at Port Vale on May 2.

County need three wins to even stand a chance and have paid the price for a poor run of form that has seen them take just four points from their last 18.

The manager believes County, who were third when they won at Carlisle a month ago, have been a victim of their own success as teams combat their 4-2-2-2 and pay close attention to influential midfielder Finn Azaz.

South Wales Argus: County manager James RowberryCounty manager James Rowberry

“My biggest view is that teams are preparing better for us now because of the way that we have played of late,” he said.

“I am not saying they didn’t do that in previous years but the way that we are playing, there is more of an awareness of what we are trying to achieve.

“We’ve got two players who have been nominated for young player of the year and player of the year [Azaz and Dom Telford], so that shows we are doing something right.

“We are still in and around the play-off and have to just keep doing what we are trying to do, then hopefully it will fall into place.”

Rowberry also denied that the promotion bid had been derailed by the loss of Swansea loanee Ollie Cooper, who has missed the last five games with a groin issue.

The attacking midfielder leads the club's assist chart with nine but he also is a key figure in the high press, setting the pace for tackles per game.

Cooper has been missed but Waite has helped fill the void after signing from Cymru Premier club Penybont on an 18-month deal in January.

South Wales Argus: LIVELY: County midfielder James WaiteLIVELY: County midfielder James Waite

“James has stepped up. He scored the goal last week, has had assists, scored against Bristol Rovers and [produced] in key moments for us,” said Rowberry about the 22-year-old former Cardiff midfielder.

County suffered frustration at Sutton, who had the better of the most important metric thanks to a penalty on the stroke of half-time despite being second-best in most aspects.

However, Rowberry was encouraged by his team’s fight and robustness at Gander Green Lane.

“We dealt with a very physical Sutton team, who were very direct and well-organised,” he said.

“They have been to the EFL Trophy final, they are in the play-off spots and are riding the wave after being promoted but we matched them and went toe-to-toe.

“There might have been questions about our physicality before but the lads stepped up and I was pleased for Matty Dolan.

“He was terrific in the middle of the pitch after coming back in. He had a real bite to his game and so did [right-back] Cameron Norman.”