NEWPORT County’s promotion aspirations are hanging by a thread following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Stevenage, but the defeat at the Lamex isn’t the reason why the Exiles’ hopes are fading fast.

Taken in isolation over the course of the season, County’s performance at Broadhall Way was a perfectly acceptable one, County the better side in several regards.

They were more ambitious than their hosts, they were more willing to commit extra bodies in pursuit of a goal, even when the scores were level and they were more creative, more inclined to try a quick one-two or to flick a ball through a gap.

They created far more chances than Graham Westley’s men, enjoyed more periods of genuinely sustained pressure and it was Chris, not Joe, who was the busier of the two Days in goal. A curiosity on an afternoon when the home goalkeeper was arguably the star man.

And by scoring a late goal, by fighting long after this reporter and I would guess most of their fans had long since given up, the Exiles showed their spirit, a true grit and a determination that is a pre-requisite in a promotion battle.

And yet, the County can’t score goals. And they can’t win at home.

And that is why a slightly unlucky away defeat constitutes the Exiles’ promotion hopes hanging by a thread, why they are now absolutely in a crisis, of the confidence in front of goal variety.

Down to ninth in the table, County’s luck has run out. And Newport have been lucky.

They weren’t fortunate to beat Wycombe or Burton with super away displays – and Saturday’s performance shared traits – but they were lucky that the sides below them failed to capitalise as the Exiles drew a blank with Morecambe and Mansfield and lost two key home games.

The Exiles have been lucky that midfielders like Yan Klukowski, Mark Byrne and now Adam Chapman have stepped forward and taken on that goal burden when their strikers have failed, but eventually that luck will run out and on Saturday it did.

Mark Byrne stung the hands of Day and missed the target but couldn’t find the net in an unusually poor performance.

And Klukowski took too long to settle when his big moment arrived when he would usually instinctively strike with predatory instinct. He couldn’t find the net either with the score at 1-0 and the goal seemingly at his mercy after good industry from Miles Storey.

Miles Storey. The only Newport County striker to score in 2015.

At the start of the campaign the Exiles were bursting at the seams with potential goals, or so it seemed.

A fit Aaron O’Connor with the ever reliable Chris Zebroski, Rene Howe seemingly rejuvenated and looking a million dollars in pre-season, Shaun Jeffers sniffing for a chance after fleeting cameos. Danny Crow and Christian Jolley desperate for a chance to kick-start their tenures on Parade, to rekindle their Conference form at the higher level.

That was then. Fast forward seven months and the stats are ugly reading.

Crow and Jolley have left, Howe and O’Connor have suffered injury hit campaigns and Zebroski’s current toils were summed up rather nicely as he rashly got himself sent off on Saturday as his frustration boiled over. He now has two more cards this season (eight yellows, one red) than goals (seven).

Yet a return of seven goals frighteningly still makes Zebroski Newport’s second most prolific striker, one goal behind O’Connor.

The Exiles simply can’t expect anything other than a damp squib end to the campaign unless they can find a scoring touch and fast and it was unfortunate to see their brightest spark miss his big chance on Saturday.

Storey’s brilliant winner at Burton has been backed up with good displays since but when his big moment arrived he was denied, hitting the target and making the goalkeeper work after Bira Dembele’s mistake sent him clear, but failing to find the equaliser Newport needed.

At the other end, it goes without saying that the manner of the goals conceded will also irk the Exiles, two headers either side of half time from set pieces, scored by Charlie Lee and Dembele, given too much space without enough pressure.

When Kevin Feely had an almost identical chance for County in the second period after replacing the injured Ismail Yakubu he missed it, anxiety in front of goal now unhappily apparently spreading to the defenders and those on the substitutes’ bench.

Chapman did show poise with his precise effort on 87 minutes that gave County heart as he turned home a corner headed on by Darren Jones, but Zebroski’s rash red put pay to any hopes of an unlikely comeback. It was a stupid challenge and he compounded the moment of madness by taking far too long to leave the field when his team were losing, not winning.

The marking for both goals conceded was poor, but it would be bordering on unfair to pick on County’s defenders who have kept them competitive throughout 2015 when their strikers have been anything but.

County need goals and they need them with haste, because the home clashes with Cheltenham and Luton on Friday and Tuesday will likely define the remainder of their campaign.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day, Henry, Okimo, Dembele, Wells, Pett, Lee, Walton, Parrett (Andrade 82), Kennedy (Bond 90), Beardsley (Keane 58)

Subs not used: Beasant, Ashton, Johnson, Conlon

Booked: Wells

Newport County (4-2-2): Day, Jackson, Tutonda, Yakubu (Feely 53 ¬), Jones, Byrne, Porter (Minshull 76), Chapman, Klukowski (Zebroski 55), Willmott, Storey

Subs not used: Stephens, Sandell, Parker, Jeffers

Booked: Feely, Zebroski, Willmott

Sent off: Zebroski

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Attendance: 2941 (228 away)