LIAM O'Neil's second-half strike for Cambridge United condemned Newport County AFC to defeat at Rodney Parade. Here are the talking points...

Boss ‘shell-shocked’ by dismal display

After such an impressive performance at Plymouth Argyle and a great result against Leicester City under-21s in the Trophy, nobody saw this performance coming – least of all manager Michael Flynn.

The Exiles boss declared himself “shell-shocked” after the match and he couldn’t put his finger on why his players had performed so poorly.

Like most League Two teams, County are frustratingly inconsistent and this the manager will hope that they can quickly put Saturday behind them and get back to winning ways against Walsall on Tuesday.

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Injuries didn’t help the Exiles

A few weeks ago, County almost had a fully fit squad for the first time in the season but the injuries have been mounting up again since then.

Flynn was without Mark O’Brien, Ashley Baker, Ryan Haynes, George Nurse and Matty Dolan from the start on Saturday and he then lost star man Josh Sheehan to a nasty looking cut midway through the first half.

That led to Mickey Demetriou being forced to play at left-back and Robbie Willmott asked to fill in in various positions throughout the game.

Flynn refused to use the injuries as an excuse for a disappointing display but they certainly didn’t help.

Play-offs look a long way off

Deadline day loan signing Otis Khan talked up the club’s chances of competing for the top seven before the match and the manager suggested the next few weeks would be crucial if they are to make up ground on the teams above them.

But with each defeat, the gap to the play-off places grows and the challenge gets even tougher for the Exiles – even with those three games in hand over many teams.

There are still a lot of points to play for and last season’s late surge up the table shows that County shouldn’t be written off but yesterday’s performance was not one that will have rivals quaking in their boots.

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Time for a shake-up

Despite the lengthy injury list, one look at the bench suggested that there is strength in depth in this squad following the January transfer activity.

New arrivals Khan (above), Billy Waters and Dale Gorman could all be in line for their first starts against Walsall on Tuesday night, while Flynn will hope that Nurse and Baker could return.

The boss admitted that nobody would be able to complain if they were dropped after a performance that he described as “nowhere near” what he expects from his players.

Read more: Newport County boss Michael Flynn reacts after defeat to Cambridge United