WE’RE fast approaching the season of goodwill, but there was precious little peace, love and understanding at Rodney Parade on Saturday.

Newport County AFC failed to light up a damp and drizzly afternoon as they slumped to a miserable 1-0 home defeat to lowly Oldham Athletic.

Manager Michael Flynn admitted afterwards that it was a dismal display from his team with too many long balls, too many poor passes and nowhere near enough ideas.

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County didn’t look like scoring all afternoon and, as Flynn conceded, they looked short on confidence throughout.

The home fans, many of whom had paid £22 for a ticket, were understandably frustrated with the performance and the result.

There were a few isolated boos as the half-time whistle sounded and far more at the end of the match, although those voicing their displeasure were still in the minority.

Booing is always tough for the manager and players to hear but it’s generally accepted that paying fans are entitled to make their feelings clear at the end of the match.

What is less understandable, and what irked Flynn on Saturday, is so-called ‘supporters’ criticising their team right from the off.

There were barely three minutes on the clock at the weekend when the Exiles boss turned around to respond to a comment shouted from behind him in the Rodney Road Stand.

“After two minutes and 45 seconds, we hadn’t even touched the ball and they were already booing and saying, ‘get it on the deck’ so that was brilliant,” explained Flynn afterwards.

“It’s not that easy. Everybody’s got an opinion and they’re all football managers now.

“How about getting behind the team? Especially after two minutes and 45 seconds. That’s all I said to them.”

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It’s never a good sign when a manager is at loggerheads with the fans, even if it is only a handful as it was on this occasion.

That sort of confrontation should be avoided if at all possible, but Flynn is a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve and he cares passionately about his hometown club – just like the fans on the terraces.

And, surely, he’s right when he argues that the team will benefit much more from encouragement than they will from negativity from the stands.

Saturday was a deeply uninspiring afternoon from a County perspective and, in truth, it’s been a while since the team was firing on all cylinders.

It’s now one point from the last 12 in the league and, with games postponed as well, Flynn’s men are down to 11th in the League Two table.

And, one madcap night at Cheltenham Town in the Leasing.com Trophy aside, they have been unconvincing even when winning matches in the last two months.

But negativity from the stands and on social media can quickly create a toxic atmosphere that makes things worse, rather than better – just look at the example of Arsenal in the Premier League.

Gunners fans turned on captain Granit Xhaka last month, cheering when he was substituted, and the Swiss international reacted by swearing at his own fans.

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery (above) is now the target of growing abuse and the atmosphere at the Emirates appears to be inhibiting the players – as witnessed by another abject performance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with struggling Southampton.

Xhaka’s replacement as skipper, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, appealed to fans before the match to no avail.

“This is my message for you Arsenal fans,” said the striker. “We need you. You are amazing, your support is amazing and we need to all pull in the same direction.

“I really hope you will be massively behind us today and for the rest of the season.”

Things are nowhere near as bad at Rodney Parade as they are at the Emirates, but the sentiments have to be the same – fans have to back the team if they are to turn things around.

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Saturday’s defeat made it three in the row in the league for the first time since last December for County, but they have experienced these slumps before and come out the other end.

Flynn knows that there is work to do on the training pitch, and potentially in the transfer market in January.

There’s plenty of room for improvement and the Exiles must put on a far better display if they are to avoid an FA Cup shock at Maldon & Tiptree on Friday.

But Flynn and his team have achieved remarkable things in recent seasons and they should be able to rely on the backing of the fans when things aren’t going so well.