When you come up against Newport County, as Carlisle United did at the weekend, you know what you are going to get from them.

They are a team that, by and large, is put together with players who have been released from other clubs. The Exiles aren’t the kind of side to go out and buy the best players. They get cast-offs from other sides and make a team out of them which gives them a bit of a siege mentality - and a bulldog spirit.

Mike Flynn’s men play a certain way and it’s not always particularly nice.

Their Rodney Parade pitch which they share with Dragons and Newport RFC isn’t always great, but they make it work for themselves - as they have done in the FA Cup this season in particular, making it through to the fifth round where they lost to Man City.

I was fearful they might show that kind of spirit on Saturday and, unfortunately for the Cumbrians, that’s how it turned out as the Blues fell to a 2-0 defeat after goals from Ade Azeez and Padraig Amond.

As we have already said on many occasions this season, League Two is very much a first-goal league. We certainly had the chances to go ahead in the first half.

A really good ball from Aston Villa loan midfielder Callum O’Hare slips Hallam Hope through, and the pitch didn’t really do him any favours - he was running through a puddle at one point! And to be fair to the Newport goalkeeper Joe Day, he makes a decision to come out.

Then, the ball falls to Blackpool loan frontman Mark Cullen. I’ve heard a lot of people say that it was quite an easy chance for him but, looking back, I don’t really think it was. The keeper, Day, is still in front of him and there are two on the line. He has caught his effort well enough, but it’s deflected wide, so I don’t think it was quite as easy chance as some people maybe expected it to be. When you see it back again, it certainly looks a lot harder.

If Steven Pressley’s side had of got that opening goal, then Newport have to come out a bit more and that leaves holes in behind. But unfortunately it was Newport who scored both of the goals during the contest.

As Blues boss Pressley says, it’s really bad defending from United for County’s two goals from two set-plays. That has cost us in the end.

In the second half, we didn’t really look like getting back into the game and we didn’t lay a glove on them,and that’s the disappointing thing in the end.

Pressley praised Sheffield United loan midfielder Regan Slater after the match. He sees these players in training virtually every day and, with the way he implements things, I get what he was saying.

In my opinion, Carlisle’s midfield didn’t really get hold of the game, but I can see what he means when he said he felt Slater had, had a good game because the things Slater did on the ball - and how he helped to mop up in midfield at times - over the 90 minutes, he did some things really well.

That makes you think that he is learning all the time and he is developing with the first-team experience he is getting with the Brunton Park outfit but the unfortunate thing is, at the moment, we aren’t really interested in that. We are interested in results. So, you’d rather he didn’t play well and it was scrappy but we did win.

I did agree with Pressley that Slater was doing well to win the second balls but, in the end, I just thought that Newport’s midfield was a bit too strong.

That showed at the end when they brought on experienced midfielder Joss Labadie, who counts Tranmere, Notts County and Dagenham & Redbridge among his former clubs, and he threw two of the United players out the way. He is a big, strong lad, but that’s what you get in League Two - big, strong, lads who are good players.

It’s something the likes of Slater and O’Hare won’t have come across in academy leagues. Sometimes it’s a rude awakening, but Slater and O’Hare will learn from it. That’s why you go out on loan as a young player. I did the same, I went to Blackpool on loan, and it’s a totally different atmosphere and a totally different standard to what you are used to playing in reserve leagues or academy leagues.

Danny Grainger’s late penalty miss sort of summed up the Blues’ whole day in the end.

It was a certain penalty after centre-back Tom Parkes had been dragged down in the box.

Danny hit it well enough. At the time, it looked like an excellent save. But, by Danny’s standards, he will probably say himself that it was a little bit too close to the keeper.

Sometimes, days just go like that. It’s about how you bounce back from them.

There are enough times where Danny has stepped up as captain and taken the bull by the horns and won us the game - the 3-2 home win against Newport being a prime example when the 32-year-old scored a late winner in early November. We weren’t ever going to win that game until Danny took that shot on.

He is not one to make many mistakes and he’s not one who misses penalties usually to be fair. Everyone has a bit of an off-day from time to time, you can’t criticise someone for a bad day at the office because, overall, there have been a lot more good matches from Danny than there have been bad ones.


Carlisle United are still only one point outside the League Two play-off places, despite taking two points from their last five league matches.

If I was still in the dressing room, I would be looking at that. In football, you always need to look for any positives you can but, for the Blues, there are genuine positives there.

We are currently on a run which isn’t quite so good, but we are still definitely very much in the race.

But last season, we said we could qualify for the play-offs but it didn’t happen and we had to settle for 10th position in the end but, this term, we are in with a genuine chance. But we need to get this elusive win as quickly as possible.

Now, we have two home games in a row that I feel we can get something from, and probably I’d say we need to get six points from. The lads will be looking forward to them.

It will be a good game against Swindon on Saturday. The Robins are going well themselves now, but I feel we have more than enough to beat them.

Then, next Tuesday’s game against Notts County, you have got to say that has to be one where we have to go and win it.

After that, we travel to Forest Green, and we usually do well against teams around us, so hopefully, we will get a return of something like seven points from our next three matches. I feel that would be a good return from those fixtures.

United, meanwhile, will also play Middlesbrough in a reserve friendly today.

I think there are people who are keen to see players like Jason Kennedy and fellow midfielder Mike Jones get a bit more of a chance.

This friendly will, hopefully, help to keep those kinds of players very sharp, match fit and it keeps them on their toes, ready for when they are needed.