NEWPORT County AFC suffered another dose of promotion heartbreak at Wembley on Monday.

The Exiles came agonisingly close to climbing out of League Two for the second time in three years only to be edged out by Morecambe.

County had a superb season and set a record points total since their 2013 return to the Football League but they need to dust themselves down and go again.

Here's what they need to happen to make the next step…

DEFLATED: County boss Michael Flynn needs to recharge his batteries after promotion pain

DEFLATED: County boss Michael Flynn needs to recharge his batteries after promotion pain


It wasn’t purely emotion in the immediate aftermath of the controversial loss that led to Michael Flynn suggesting he needs to contemplate his future.

The manager said he was frustrated about certain things that happened over the course of the campaign and needs to thrash things out with the board.

County aren’t a one-man band - and assistant coach Wayne Hatswell deserves big praise - but Flynn has steered the ship and boosted the club’s profile as well as the coffers.

When he does head for a new challenge he will leave a club in much better shape but the Exiles will hope that isn’t in the coming weeks.

If Flynn decides he has the passion and drive for another rebuild then it gives County a better shot at being in the mix in the top half again.

That is not to say he is perfect – and his January recruitment drive didn’t provide the boost that he was hoping for in the bid for automatic promotion – but one more year of his service would help attract a better calibre of player.

DEPENDABLE: Scot Bennett never lets County down, whatever the role

DEPENDABLE: Scot Bennett never lets County down, whatever the role


Josh Sheehan will go. The midfielder is certainly good enough for League One and would be a shrewd, low-risk signing for either Welsh Championship club.

There are question marks over keeping a raft of other key performers – Mickey Demetriou, Scot Bennett, Joss Labadie, Liam Shephard, Aaron Lewis, Ryan Haynes.

County cannot afford for them all to leave; heading into 2021/22 with a drastically different team would mean starting with the aim of avoiding the drop and not pushing for top seven.

Of the loanees, AFC Wimbledon midfielder Anthony Hartigan would be welcome back after showing talent in the run-in.

I’d also argue there is some merit in bringing back young Bournemouth forward Jake Scrimshaw, a popular member of the squad who could help with the Lewis Collins chasing and hustling role.


An addition that would have been the prime requirement regardless of Monday’s result.

County have lacked a driving force and athleticism to scare defenders and it will be interesting to see where Collins settles.

The 20-year-old is raw but made an impact up front with his energy and willingness to chase seemingly lost causes.

Improving his final ball is the pre-season work-on for the Wales Under-20s international, who could well return out wide.

Bringing in more pace is a necessity but there is often a trade-off when is comes to such signings in the fourth tier.

Free Press Series: CHANCE: Joss Labadie fired over for County just before Morecambe's penaltyCHANCE: Joss Labadie fired over for County just before Morecambe's penalty


Stating the bleeding obvious, the Exiles need a killer streak.

For the second successive Wembley final they played for 120 minutes without scoring, while they've drawn blanks in four of five trips to the home of English football (granted, one of them was against Tottenham).

County actually finished ninth for goals scored (57, 1.24 per game) and had the third most shots per game (13), with an xG of 1.44.

But a theme of the season, even when they were setting the pace, was them doing plenty of probing but failing to put teams to the sword.

Matty Dolan finished as League Two top scorer with seven goals, one of which came from open play.

Champions Cheltenham showed that you don’t need a golden boot contender to go up but Newport need a couple more players who can hit double figures.

They don't have the financial power to do a Bolton and sign an established goal-getter like Eoin Doyle but perhaps they can profit from a player who just needs to fit into the right system.

Few would have seen Cambridge's Paul Mullin, Exeter's Matt Jay and Morecambe's Cole Stockton having such successful campaigns.

Perhaps Cardiff could help out a fellow Welsh club by sending out Max Watters, who failed to fire after earning a move from Crawley, for game time?!

However, it's not just about the strikers - County need to improve their final ball and decision-making.


Swindon recalling Scott Twine turned County from leading contenders for the top three to having to fight for their play-off spot.

The 21-year-old is clever at finding pockets of space, comfortable receiving with his back to goal and then driving forward, links midfield and attack and his shooting from distance isn't too shabby.

County will be lucky to find a player of that quality but someone who can fill the role would help against teams who are happy to sit deep.


Perhaps this one doesn't belong on what is needed to take the next step but it's certainly something that would push the club on.

County’s successful season was down to a strong squad but it was an ageing one.

The hope will be that the introduction of a development squad will help provide a bit more depth and allow prospects to follow Lewis Collins and force their way into the fold.

Ideally, the likes of Lewys Twamley, who had a stellar season with the academy, Joe Woodiwiss and Aneurin Livermore will be able to get more of a taste of senior football.

The young lads showed real glimpses of talent in the EFL Trophy but the step up is huge and it would be nice for one or two to get some experience of being part of a matchday squad.

Flynn has shown in the past that he is willing to give youth a chance and getting the balance is key given the demands of Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday football.

Those that enjoy success have a core of experience but the exuberance of youth can help County get over their play-off angst.