NOT even Newport County’s best display for weeks – with the bar set low – was enough to prevent a deflating finish to the League Two season.

The Exiles, as expected, brought their campaign to an end with an eighth straight loss at Bradford City.

The Bantams triumphed 4-1 at Valley but missed out on the play-offs by a ping after Crawley avoided a Grimsby banana skin.

County were good in the first half but failed to take their chances – the clearest a one-on-one for loan striker Seb Palmer-Houlden on his Exiles farewell – and paid the price.

Calum Kavanagh, who spent the second half of last season on loan in Newport, powered a header home in the 44th minute and then Andy Cook nodded in from a free-kick in added time.

Bobby Pointon smashed in a cracker to make it three before Harry Charsley made a game of it when scoring from close range in the 65th minute.

However, Bradford had the final say when Jamie Walker slotted with almost the last kick to bring a sad end to what had been a strong campaign until mid-March by Graham Coughlan’s men.

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: Seb Palmer-Houlden after missing a chance for County at BradfordDESPAIR: Seb Palmer-Houlden after missing a chance for County at Bradford (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County got it spot-on for much of the first half to keep the Bantams, who needed to win to put pressure on Barrow and Crawley, at arm's length.

They were switched on and disciplined while they got some joy from going long to stretch the game through Luke Jephcott and Palmer-Houlden.

The Bristol City prospect has run out of steam in his first full season in the Football League and snatched at several good openings.

County were then hit by a quickfire double at the end of the half – and both goals were soft.

Teenage centre-back Nelson Sanca lost track of Kavanagh and he powered home an impressive header from a cracking Brad Halliday cross.

Then young right-back Harrison Bright’s exuberance led to a free-kick that was followed by poor marking for dangerman Cook to double the advantage and pretty much kill off the game.

Bradford went on to hit County for four and that meant the Exiles ended the season with 76 in the goals against column (average 1.65).

That is an ugly figure for former central defender Coughlan, even if the reasons are clear.

County, who needed a defensive rebuilt last summer after the exits of Mickey Demetriou, Cam Norman, Priestley Farquharson and Aaron Lewis, haven’t had a settled back line all season.

On the flanks they have used Shane McLoughlin, one of the stars of the campaign both on the right and problematic left until injury in February, Lewis Payne, Bright, Adam Lewis, Matty Bondswell and even forward Will Evans.

In the central trio there have been combinations involving Ryan Delaney, James Clarke, Kyle Jameson, Declan Drysdale, Matt Baker, Josh Seberry, Scot Bennett and young Sanca.

The only time that the Exiles have really looked solid at the back was at the start of this year when Coughlan was able to get some continuity with the trio of Baker, Clarke and Delaney, shielded by Bennett.

This summer’s new arrivals will ideally have a track record of racking up the games but, as the signing of Jameson showed, that isn’t always possible with the club’s small budget.

South Wales Argus: DOWNED: County midfielder Harry Charsley is fouledDOWNED: County midfielder Harry Charsley is fouled (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


After previously having to use striker Omar Bogle in a deeper role due to injuries, it was no coincidence that County looked better in the first half through having a proper midfield trio of Bennett, Bryn Morris and Charsley.

Morris completed his perfect season by making his 46th League Two start (he has also played in EVERY cup game, just one of them off the bench) and looked happier at 8 than shielding the defence.

Bringing in somebody for that sitting role has to be another priority this summer – Bennett is surely worth another season but, at 33, can’t be expected to play a leading role throughout a long campaign.

With Charsley and Aaron Wildig also out of contract along with fringe figure James Waite, the retained and released list will be interesting when it is put out in the coming week.

Both Charsley and Wildig have their merits, both have failed to string together the games.

If County can get them on reduced deals than that would be a real bonus because they have to play the numbers game with their midfield next season.

They can’t take Morris’ availability for granted and need to be able to impact games from the bench with their subs.

That would mean a core of six seniors genuine starting options backed up by young academy legs.

It promises to be a busy summer because…

South Wales Argus: TOUGH: Luke Jephcott has endured a testing time after signing for County in JanuaryTOUGH: Luke Jephcott has endured a testing time after signing for County in January (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Coughlan and owner Huw Jenkins, who will get involved in recruitment as he did in Swansea, have lots of work to do.

They need defensive options, the left flank has been a major issue, midfield needs depth and then there is an almost total rebuild up front.

Seb Palmer-Houlden will go back to Bristol and presumably try to step up to League One on loan next season while Offrande Zanzala and Bogle are out of contract.

Zanzala is injury-prone, Bogle is a big earner and didn’t have a strong season after scoring 19 in his first year in Newport.

The jury is out on Luke Jephcott, who is yet to score since his January arrival. He needs a good summer and to start next season with a bang.

Will Evans had a sensational season and ended with 25 goals in 55 games but his run-in means that perhaps any offers won’t be as lucrative and tempting after January interest.

County will have their fingers crossed that they can find another loanee as impressive as Palmer-Houlden while an injection of pace is needed (something that James Rowberry recognised two years ago but the signing of Zanzala didn’t solve the issue due to injuries).

The Exiles have scored 62 goals and been a threat in open play after being set-piece reliant last season but it’ll be a new-look front line after the summer.