D3D4 Newport Correspondent Rob Wood looks back on the great escape that was 2017 for the Exiles…
For Newport County 2017 was the year of the ‘Great Escape’ – surviving in the Football League in the last moments of the last game of the 2016-17 season. We started the year with Graham Westley in charge. Westley’s high risk, low cost recruitment policy in the January transfer window brought in the likes of Mark O’Brien, Mickey Demetriou and David Pipe but produced no upturn in form, the club losing game after game. After a dire showing against Orient, Westley was sacked and up stepped local boy Mike Flynn – the Great Escape was on.
Playing on the worst pitch in the Football League, Flynn motivated the struggling Newport team to 7 wins in their final 12 games, engendering a team spirit that had previously been missing. 7,326 fans attended the final game against Notts County where a famous 2-1 win secured County an unlikely place in the Football League and broke Hartlepool fan Jeff Stelling’s heart live on TV. The post-match celebrations on the mud of Rodney Parade will live long in the memory.
The momentum built up during the final 12 games of last season have been carried forward into this – Mike Flynn and his assistants have proved to be a capable management team. The football team has been strengthened by the recruitment of Padraig Amond, Frank Nouble and Matty Dolan, and the loan signings of Ben White and Shawn McCoulsky have been inspired. At the end of 2017 Newport County sit just outside the playoff places in Division 2 and it’s a good time to be a County fan. A few key signings in the January transfer window and it could be our best season in the Football League since the heady days of the early 80s.
Best player – For overall impact on the team, Joss Labadie; as an individual player Dan Butler.
Worst player – With what has been achieved in 2017 no Newport County player deserves to be singled out. It has been a team effort to have come as far as we have.
Best moment – Mark O’Brien’s 89th minute winner against Notts County on the last day of the season. One of the most significant moments in the history of Newport County.
Worst moment – The 4-0 hammering at Rodney Parade by relegation rivals Leyton Orient. It left us bottom of the EFL, 11 points from safety with 12 games to play (although it did facilitate the arrival of Mike Flynn as Manager)
For my club, a New Year’s Resolution should be consolidation in the EFL and the delivery of football with a future!