NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan said he has ‘let a lot of people down’ after coming up short in a bid for the League Two play-offs.

The Exiles hopes of a late surge for the top seven were all but ended by a 4-0 hammering by Crawley at Rodney Parade.

The Reds hit the front inside the first minute through Dion Conroy from a corner and, after County wasted a number of chances, stretched clear through Ronan Darcy in the 26th minute.

The hosts were flat in the second half and Laurence Maguire sealed the win in the 69th minute from a free-kick before Adam Campbell slotted in added time.

County had been in the mix for the play-offs but their threadbare squad has now suffered three defeats on the spin under Coughlan to fall out of contention.

They are seven points behind seventh-placed Crawley, who have six fixtures remaining to their five.

South Wales Argus: FRUSTRATED: Graham Coughlan heads to the County changing room at half-timeFRUSTRATED: Graham Coughlan heads to the County changing room at half-time (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“Our squad was never big enough or deep enough for a challenge in the play-offs, that’s why I batted the play-off questions away so many times,” said Coughlan.

“But I can’t get away from the fact this club has gone from being relegation-threatened to being in a position where I am disappointed that we couldn’t finish our season off and finish in the play-offs.

“We have come a long way and I now need to go away and sit in a dark room to have a couple of hours thinking about how I can take this on.

“I have let a lot of people down because I wanted to make the play-offs and I have failed. The fans have been brilliant and so are the players, they are a great group of lads and it’s a great dressing room.

“I feel for them because they are running on fumes and we can’t turn to the bench or to the academy. We don’t have the bodies to cope with the situation that we are in.”

Coughlan always insisted that County’s target has been 57 points to match last season’s effort but he admitted he had privately been hunting a surprise bid for the top seven.

South Wales Argus: APPEAL: Will Evans is frustrated after a decision goes against CountyAPPEAL: Will Evans is frustrated after a decision goes against County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“Deep down I was desperate to make that type of challenge because there is no point in being in football if you are not winning, achieving and progressing,” he said.

“I wanted to try and keep the pressure off the lads and keep the expectations levels away. Deep down I always knew that we would come up short because of our depth.”

County paid the price for sluggish defending and then fluffing their lines in the final third at 1-0, while they failed to mount any sort of a challenge to Crawley in the second half.

They ended the game with 10 men after Lewis Payne limped off when they had already stopped the game three times for substitutions, then Aaron Wildig was hobbling around in the closing stages.

“I’ve been feeling flat for the last two weeks and that was really poor, probably one of my worst days at the club,” said Coughlan.

“It’s times like these that I look in the mirror and question myself. Why did I open us up with so many strikers on the field? Why do we have so many injuries? Why can we not win a game? Why have we just fallen off a cliff? Why have we gone so far backwards over the last few weeks?

“At the end of the day it’s down to me, I am the manager and I will have to take the hits and the blame. It’s not easy and it’s a very, very lonely job at this moment.”

“We’ve got to be better, you can’t concede goals like that. We are missing leaders but you can’t concede set-piece goals like we are,” he continued.

“There is a fundamental problem there but I can’t go out on the pitch and defend set pieces for them, they have to step up and do it themselves.

“I am not daft, I have been in the game long enough and can see what I am seeing on the pitch and in the players’ eyes, I just can’t do anything about it at this moment.

“I don’t know where to turn because we picked up another three hamstring injuries, why we are having so many injuries has got to be looked at because there are more players in the physio room than on the pitch.

“We just need to get to the end of the season and have an investigation and a look into how and why.”

County travel to relegation-threatened Grimsby on Saturday with captain Scot Bennett, Payne and Wildig major doubts after hamstring injuries.