RETURNING from a week off having missed the last three Newport County AFC matches, it seems a little odd to find many Exiles fans seemingly so downcast over their club’s prospects.

A creditable 0-0 draw at home to Wycombe Wanderers and what was, by all accounts, a slightly fortuitous 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town at a sodden Rodney Parade were followed by a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Morecambe on Saturday.

It looks on paper like a pretty average set of results for most League Two teams and certainly nothing to get too concerned about.

And the table, which sees Michael Flynn’s men sitting in ninth position and just a point below the play-off places, surely still makes for good reading for a side that has finished 22nd in each of the past two seasons.

There is a feeling that County have gone off the boil slightly in recent weeks after an excellent start to the season that saw Flynn nominated for the manager of the month award and striker Frank Nouble win the player of the month prize.

The Exiles were unlucky to lose 1-0 against Exeter City after matching Paul Tisdale’s table-toppers for long stretches of the match at St James Park on September 2 and they haven’t been able to match that level of performance since then.

Flynn’s men were rightly praised for picking up four points out of six when not quite at their best against Wycombe and Cheltenham – the sign of a good team as we’re always told by the experts.

But there appears to have been a bit of revisionism and unnecessary pessimism in some quarters due to the manner of defeat at the Globe Arena.

I wasn’t at the match so I can only go on the report from my colleague David Williams and the blistering verdict from Flynn, who blasted his side for a “gutless” and “spineless” display.

Those are strong words from the County boss who has rarely criticized his players in public and never using such inflammatory language – even after that 6-1 hammering at Plymouth Argyle last season.

Flynn will be hoping that it provokes a reaction from the squad this week as they prepare to welcome Grimsby Town to Rodney Parade this coming Saturday.

And goal scorer Scot Bennett admits in today’s Argus that the harsh words were deserved after a performance that fell below the high standards that the team has set this season and ever since Flynn was appointed back in March.

The talk after the match has been of a reality check for County and any players or supporters who were expecting a promotion push this season.

South Wales Argus:

Flynn has opted to keep the target for the campaign a private matter for now but he has constantly reiterated the need for his players to keep their feet on the ground and keep working hard.

It is unlikely that the manager and fellow coaches Wayne Hatswell and Lennie Lawrence would have allowed any complacency to infect the squad.

But Saturday’s defeat has perhaps given those supporters who were getting carried away, with thoughts of the play-offs or even automatic promotion, pause for thought.

With only eight games gone it’s still far too early to make any confident predictions about who the runners and riders will be come the business end of the season.

League Two is a famously volatile division with current leaders Exeter finding themselves in the relegation zone this time last year.

The Supporters' Trust even ordered the club to serve notice on the contract of manager Tisdale, the longest serving manager in the Football League.

But the Grecians eventually recovered to finish fifth and make the play-off final in May and are now clear at the top with 22 points from a possible 24 so far this campaign.

This is a league where anything can happen, anyone can beat anyone and all 24 clubs are still potential promotion challengers – even bottom two Chesterfield and Port Vale who sacked their managers at the weekend.

If I had to put money on it I’d predict that the Exiles will avoid a relegation battle this season, which would be a success in itself after the past few years, and finish comfortably in mid-table.

But Flynn’s men have already shown that they are capable of going toe-to-toe with the top sides in the league and, with a bit of luck with injuries, they could still surprise a few people this season.

Saturday was a disappointment but my glass is still half full as far as County are concerned.

And hopefully it will be topped up again at Rodney Parade this weekend. I'll see you there.