NEWPORT County AFC will try to avoid a hat-trick of defeats for the first time this season when they host Crawley on Bank Holiday Monday.

The Exiles were hoping to bounce back from defeat against Barrow when they headed to Colchester on Good Friday but they suffered a 2-1 loss.

County led 1-0 against the run of play at the break thanks to Offrande Zanzala’s cool lob after a defensive mix-up in the 42nd minute.

The U’s boosted their bid to beat the drop thanks to Ellis Iandolo scoring from a corner in the 75th minute and an injury-time cracker by defender Jay Mingi.

Here are some talking points from the clash in Essex…


County are mathematically in the mix for the play-offs but our eyes tells us differently.

The Exiles are five points behind seventh-placed Gillingham, who have played a game more, and are four back on Crawley, who have a game in hand and travel to Rodney Parade on Monday.

That fixture means it’s too early to declare the bid for the top seven as dead, but the template has been made for the headstone.

Fail to beat Crawley and County will no longer be contenders, and in some ways that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Graham Coughlan knows his squad and that is why he has refused to discuss a play-off bid, even when the table shows that they have been in contention.

Incredibly, they were two points off the play-offs in the live table during the second half in Essex while Colchester were in the bottom two.

However, this hard-working County side have their limitations and the current list of absentees – and the autumn injury crisis – has hit them hard.

They were without six senior figures in Colchester, individuals that would consider themselves first choice.

If County had more selection headaches then they would be serious play-off contenders, instead they are technically play-off contenders but not realistically.

But with four of their last six in Newport, there is the chance for a flying finish to what has been a strong campaign to give a platform for 2024/25.

That the Exiles were even on the fringes of the race for the play-offs is quite an achievement given what they have faced since last summer.

South Wales Argus: Seb Palmer-Houlden on the attack for County at ColchesterSeb Palmer-Houlden on the attack for County at Colchester (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County lacked snap in both Barrow and Colchester, and that can’t just be put down to the wind in Cumbria and heavy surface in Essex.

The Exiles didn’t have a midweek fixture ahead of either game but too many players are running on fumes.

County remain League Two’s leaders for possession won in the final third – an average of 5.3 times per game, slightly ahead of promotion-chasing Mansfield (for reference, Harrogate are bottom with 2.7 while Wrexham’s 2.9 shows there are many ways to skin a cat).

It’s worth looking at the workload of some of the key players in that press at the top end of the pitch – Bryn Morris has played 51 games this season, Will Evans 49, Aaron Wildig 39, Seb Palmer-Houlden 36 in his first full EFL campaign, Harry Charsley 33 in between injuries, Offrande Zanzala has had a run of games after a year on the sidelines.


County were wasteful with the ball in blustery Barrow and repeated the trick in Essex where they had just 38.9 per cent of the ball.

That wasn’t really odd because the Exiles have been ranked low for possession throughout the campaign and are currently 23rd with an average of 43.1 per cent, with just play-off hopefuls Walsall beneath them on 42.6.

However, their inability to hold onto the ball was notable in Colchester and they failed to string anything together and build spells of sustained pressure.

It was clearly a tough pitch to play on but the U’s, and in particular Arthur Read, looked far more comfortable.

Contrast County’s last two performances with the effort for Will Evans’ wonderful winner against Gillingham with players rotating positions and not being afraid to just go back to keep probing.

They had the ball for 68 seconds for that 21-pass goal in which nine players were involved.

County will be back on a more helpful Rodney Parade pitch on Monday and need to improve their movement and pick out the passes.

South Wales Argus: Offrande Zanzala celebrates his goal for County at ColchesterOffrande Zanzala celebrates his goal for County at Colchester (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County don’t have a glut of options for Crawley on Monday and Coughlan clearly has limited trust in certain members of his squad.

However, he does have options up front and it will be interesting to see if he makes a brave call – putting Will Evans on the bench.

The top scorer has cut a frustrated figure recently and is having to get used to increased attention and taking the hits in the absence of Omar Bogle.

Evans didn’t have any service at Colchester, so it was not a surprise that he went a sixth game without a goal, a relative drought in his remarkable campaign.

Offrande Zanzala and Seb Palmer-Houlden have been switching starts of late and it could be intriguing to pair them together, or perhaps give another start to Luke Jephcott.

Evans might profit from a breather and being told to give it a half-hour blast off the bench, although he’ll want to be in that XI to chase goal number 25.