THIS was the polar opposite of finishing the league season on a high.

Newport County can finally consign a horrible 2011/12 Blue Square Bet Premier campaign to the history books and look forward to a fantastic day out at Wembley.

The FA Trophy final against York City on May 12 can’t come soon enough after another desperately disappointing defeat at AFC Barrow on Saturday.

Just like the opening day defeat at Nene Park against Kettering, County started brightly but faded badly and came away with nothing.

All the familiar failings were evident with sloppy defending allowing the Bluebirds to plunder three goals from only four shots on target and poor finishing at the other end costing the Exiles dear.

On top of the defeat, which didn’t matter much in terms of league standings, there was an injury scare for captain Gary Warren who went off with a tight hamstring.

It seems like his withdrawal was just a precaution and he should be fine for Wembley but it was another worrying moment for everyone of an amber persuasion.

Things started badly as the hosts took the lead with their first attack of the match.

Welshman Jack Mackreth ghosted in behind Andrew Hughes on the right flank and his cross fell perfectly for top scorer Andy Cook to thump the ball past the recalled Glyn Thompson in the eighth minute.

County responded well, however, as a free-kick from Hughes found the unmarked Ismail Yakubu six yards out and the centre-back easily headed past Danny Hurst in the Barrow goal to level on 15 minutes.

That was the start of a period of domination for the visitors as Romone Rose, Darryl Knights, Lee Minshull and Elliott Buchanan linked up well to rattle the hosts’ defence.

Knights wasted a decent opportunity when put through on the right and Rose had a fabulous half-volley superbly saved by the impressive Hurst.

But most eye-catching was the performance of 17-year-old Lee Evans in the heart of the County midfield.

The Wales under-18 captain was undoubtedly the star of the show, outshining League Two players Minshull and Max Porter in the middle and giving himself a real chance of featuring at Wembley. There has been a lot of talk about the youngster being one for the future but he looks every bit one for the here and now. True, there were one or two moments where he showed his inexperience, but he produced the outstanding piece of skill of the match from any County player midway through the first half.

Side-stepping a challenge beautifully on the edge of the area with all the panache of Paul Scholes, he then produced a thunderbolt of a shot that was somehow palmed away to safety by Hurst.

He then set up Buchanan with a neat chipped through ball but the striker sliced his shot wide and once again County had failed to make the most of their dominance.

And once again they were made to pay as first Richie Baker and then Adam Boyes sealed Barrow’s first win in 11 games with near identical strikes after the break.

Both were given far too much time and space on the edge of the area and both found the bottom corner of Thompson’s net with unerring accuracy.

It’s likely to be a very different looking team on May 12 and, with Edinburgh promising a clear out of the squad over the coming weeks, not many of these players will remain by the time pre-season comes round.

But after a long season of ups and downs, mostly downs, both the players and the long-suffering fans – 107 of whom made the long trip from south Wales – can at least dream of Wembley and a brighter future.