NEVER mind a day at the races, for too much of Saturday’s encounter at Rodney Parade, quite frankly Swindon Town were all at sea.

Phil Brown’s squad had embarked on an outing to the gee-gees at Lingfield on Wednesday, but if that trip was designed to reinforce a sense of bonding and togetherness among the players, there was scant evidence of it on offer in south Wales.

Instead of galloping onwards into the final straight of the League Two season with a morale-boosting away win under the belts, Town are increasingly looking among the also-rans.

While a three-point gap to the play-off places – realistically four given Town’s poor goal difference – is hardly an insurmountable obstacle in the final three games, Brown’s men are hardly the image of thoroughbreds with the finish line in sight – a record of one win in seven matches telling its own story.

Gallingly, it was an ex-Town player delivering another damaging blow, Ben Tozer - who scored the winner at the County Grond in November - nodding home Newport’s second with 10 minutes of the first half remaining and being fully deserving of the man of the match award handed out by the local sponsors.

Swindon Advertiser:

Scott Twine was handed a starting berth for the second time this week

Home striker Paddy Amond had sublimely given the home side the lead on the quarter-hour and although substitute Donal McDermott’s second-half strike gave the visitors hope, that was almost immediately extinguished as defender Rollin Menayese was shown a second yellow card to reduce Town to 10 men.

To add to the visiting team’s woes, defender Chris Hussey appeared to get involved in an altercation with a supporter as the teams left the field at the end of the match, Town boss Phil Brown confirming the incident would be investigated.

The visitors made just the one change from the midweek draw with Yeovil at the Energy Check County Ground, with on-loan Bristol Rovers man Menayese stepping into defence as skipper Olly Lancashire missed out, having limped out of the Glovers clash.

Marc Richards captained the side, with teenage midfielder Scott Twine retaining his place on the right of midfield.

Reice Charles-Cook was fit enough for a place on the bench, in place of Will Henry, in the only change among the substitutes.

Mansfield’s win at Chesterfield in the day’s early kick-off had increased the need for the Wiltshire men to take victory in Wales, but despite a solid enough start, Town struggled to contain a five-man County midfield, with Tozer particularly prominent.

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Matthew Taylor showed his frustration after the full time whistle

Twine won an early corner, but the away side carried little threat going forward and soon received a warning shot across the bows in the 12th minute as Tozer found himself in plenty of space on the edge of the box.

Although his shot was speculative, goalkeeper Stuart Moore had to watch it carefully over the top, but Town failed to heed the lesson.

Three minutes later, they paid the price and although the finish was glorious, Town still had plenty to ponder as County’s Padraig Amond started the celebrations.

Home skipper David Pipe had too much room and time to swerve in a cross from the right to near the penalty spot and Town’s defence simply watched as Amond controlled the ball on his right thigh and in one movement guided it past Moore into the far corner.

The visitors were at least a yard off the pace, County – the team seemingly with nothing to play for – sharper in thought and snappier into tackles.

Home defender Mickey Demetriou hooked clear under pressure at the other end, but Town were creating little tangible threat as boss Brown bellowed in frustration at his players from the touchline.

The physical presence of Luke Norris, so often derided by sections of the Swindon support, was sorely missed, Town’s early efforts being summed up by Woolery blasting miles high and wide after the hosts had got into a muddle at the back and Twine had surged towards the edge of the box.

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Rollin Menayese was shown a red card on his return to the starting XI

Woolery’s persistence then won possession on the right edge of the box and an off-balance Twine was unlucky not to turn a sharp low ball towards goal.

Ten minutes before the break though, the dozing visitors were punished once again.

This time, Ben White had too much time to swing in a cross from the right and Tozer stooped to nod it beyond Moore and into the same far corner.

It threatened to get messy for Town as Newport poured forward with confidence, although Twine nearly fashioned an opening for the away side as he got himself in front of the defence to meet Banks’ near-post low cross, but his shot was blocked.

As it was, a thoroughly disjointed Swindon side were just relieved to get to half-time unscathed.

Brown rang the changes at the break, introducing McDermott and Mullin to the fray for Ben Purkiss and the ineffective Woolery and sent his team back out minutes ahead of the start of the second period, no doubt with a flea in their ears.

As at Crawley over Easter, the second-half performance level improved, Mullin sending a volley goalwards that Newport keeper Joe Day had to palm behind before Menayese picked up what would turn out to be a costly booking.

McDermott went close on 56 minutes as he controlled a loose ball at the edge of the box and volleyed on to the top of Day’s crossbar but County could have scored a third as Moore acrobatically palmed clear a header from another dangerous Tozer long throw.

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Woolery looks to get his shot away

Just after the midway point of the half, Town unexpectedly had a lifeline as it was County’s turn to switch off.

McDermott picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and floated over a cross. Mullin got there and claimed the touch beyond Day.

That kicked off a bizarre few minutes featuring substitutions, chances and a red card.

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Town duo Richards and McDermott were left feeling dejected

Even the latter arrived in odd fashion as Menayese challenged for a cross at the far post with White, who crumpled in a heap. The Town defender was on his way back to the halfway line only for Breakspear, having assessed White, to call him back and brandish a second yellow to send him packing.

That left Brown with his head in his hands in the technical area as he did after Town had brought on Amine Linganzi for Twine, only to see Banks blast over from no more than five yards, having won the ball well at the back post.

Another ex-Town man Frank Nouble nearly took advantage of dreadful dallying at the back by Banks, but found Moore’s legs instead of the net.

Town continued to huff and puff but looked out on their feet and were nearly punished in the final moments as goalkeeper Moore came up for a Swindon corner, which was over-hit, allowing Tozer to advance over halfway and take aim from all of 45 yards, the ball bouncing agonisingly – for the home side – against a post before being cleared.

It didn’t matter. Many of the 949 travelling faithful were already making their way to the exits before the final whistle, serenaded by a chorus of ‘cheerio’ and ‘we’ll see you next year’ by the jubilant home support.

Town’s goose was cooked - in this game and quite possibly for the season.