IT all started so well when making pre-season predictions for the Argus ahead of the League Two campaign.

On August 5, before a ball had been kicked, I plumped for Stockport, Wrexham and Mansfield to earn the automatic promotion spots.

It wasn’t the bravest of calls given their budgets but the trio have indeed gone up to League One.

The prediction for Newport County AFC wasn’t too shabby either.

“I am confident that they will be preparing for another campaign in League Two in August, 2024 – I reckon they will be between 15th and 18th.”

They were in a strong position to make a mockery of that cautious prediction but then suffered a collapse in the run-in with eight straight losses.

Thankfully, Swindon conceded late on to draw their final-day fixture and the Exiles finished 18th.

The less said about the play-off and relegation predictions the better… “It will be a mad scramble but I fancy Bradford, Salford, Notts County and Gillingham to be in the top seven, then it’s pot luck,” I wrote.

“That would mean Doncaster, MK Dons, Swindon and dark horses Barrow missing out, which only goes to show how competitive things will be.”

It will be MK, Doncaster, Crewe and Crawley hunting Wembley joy over the coming weeks… with egg on my face courtesy of the last of that quartet.

“I’ll plump for Crawley and Harrogate to be the unfortunate ones,” I wrote.

The Reds finished seventh and the Sulphurites 13th, both well clear of Forest Green and Sutton in the drop zone.

The final league placings were decided last weekend and the table doesn’t lie after a gruelling season, yet there are some finishes that are baffling when you get a snapshot of opponents over two fixtures.

Here is an alternative table on how teams ranked when up against the Exiles…

South Wales Argus: Notts County did the double over Newport CountyNotts County did the double over Newport County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

1: Notts County (actual position 14) – The Magpies were the team that caused Graham Coughlan’s men the most pain.

They were rampant in a pair of 3-1 wins and played some glorious stuff, although they did give a glimpse of their defensive frailties.

2: Mansfield (3) – The Stags looked a proper promotion team when doing the double over County. They came across as a team with attacking threat who could also win ugly.

3: Crawley (7) – Another team that did the double over County, playing some attractive stuff.


4: MK Dons (4) – Finished strongly in Newport but it ended 0-0. Battered County in Buckinghamshire when it should have been much more than 3-0.

5: Stockport (1) – County upset the Hatters when they were chasing a fourth-tier record of 13 straight wins. Stockport then turned the tables with a late winner after wasting chances galore at Edgeley Park.

6: Bradford (9) – Won 4-1 in Newport when Mark Hughes was under pressure thanks to Andy Cook’s hat-trick. Repeated the scoreline in the final game, although it flattered them.

7: Crewe (6) – Won 4-2 at Gresty Road, with a Mickey Demetriou double, and battled for a 1-1 draw in Newport when hit by injury.


8: Accrington (17) – Started the season with a 3-0 win in Lancashire against County, who were wasteful, and then did the double thanks to a 3-1 win against flat hosts in April.

South Wales Argus: County got revenge against Wrexham in NewportCounty got revenge against Wrexham in Newport (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

9: Wrexham (2) – Phil Parkinson’s side bullied County at the windy Racecourse to win 2-0 but then barely threatened when beaten 1-0 at Rodney Parade, with the Exiles well on top before Will Boyle’s red card.

10: Barrow (8) – Drew against 10-man County in Newport courtesy of a penalty then deservedly won 1-0 in tough Cumbrian conditions.

11: Tranmere (16) – Rovers did the double over County but weren’t especially dazzling. They struck late up north and edged a dead rubber in the run-in.

12: Salford (20) – Similar to Tranmere. Won a poor game at Moor Lane, struck in added time in a very forgettable Rodney Parade fixture.

13: Morecambe (15) – County turned them over twice but they didn’t look bad. Edged out in freezing conditions up north, played their part in a 5-3 cracker that they could have won.

14: Grimsby (21) – Drew 1-1 in Newport in a forgettable December clash and then recorded a crucial 1-0 win against a hapless County to ease relegation fears.

15: Swindon (19) – Bossed the game at the County Ground under Michael Flynn, bossed despite hitting the front in Newport.

16: Harrogate (13) – Excellent win in Newport for the Sulphurites but they were battered 4-1 on home soil.

17: AFC Wimbledon (10) – County fought back from a James Tilley double to draw in Newport then produced a superb performance to win in London, although the Dons looked pretty turgid.

18: Colchester (22) – Home wins 2-1 were traded against a U’s side that looked workmanlike despite a big budget and some quality players.

19: Sutton (23) – Beaten 3-1 at Rodney Parade after three County goals in the last 20 minutes then battled hard in a poor game in London, when it was 1-1 courtesy of a Nick Townsend error at the death.

20: Walsall (11) – Scrambled a last-gasp 3-3 draw in Newport courtesy of Freddie Draper’s hat-trick but were jeered by their own fans when thrashed 3-0 at the Bescot. Should have been a double for County.

South Wales Argus: STUNNED: County struck late in Doncaster to do the double over RoversSTUNNED: County struck late in Doncaster to do the double over Rovers (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

21: Doncaster (5) – Rovers are in the play-offs courtesy of 12 straight wins and then a draw on final day. That is remarkable on the evidence against County.

Doncaster were abject when beaten 4-0 in Newport in August and then were wasteful, but ordinary, in Yorkshire when Seb Palmer-Houlden struck late on. That was soon followed by their stunning streak after big recruitment.


22: Gillingham (12) – Dull. Beaten 2-0 by County in Kent and 1-0 in Newport. Big spenders but uninspired.

23: Forest Green (24) – County battered them 3-0 in Nailsworth and then fought back on Boxing Day to win 4-2. A remarkably poor side given their budget who deserve to drop down to the National League.