Andy Crosby believes his Port Vale side have “one more chance” in their bid for promotion after they suffered a devastating 2-1 League Two defeat at home to Newport.
The Valiants fell behind to Ryan Haynes’ third-minute goal but drew level through Ben Garrity early in the second half.
Finn Azaz’s winner for Newport means Vale travel to title-chasing Exeter on the last day not knowing if they will go up automatically, settle for a play-off place or miss out altogether.
“There are a lot of coulds, ifs, buts and maybes now,” said interim manager Crosby after Vale’s third-straight defeat.
“If we go to Exeter like we go into every single game we’ve played this season – to try and win – we’ll see where that takes us.
“They’re disappointed, our levels of performance have dropped off and we’re all massively disappointed but, as I’ve said to the lads, we have one more chance and it’s great that we have that chance to get the points that we need.
“We need the whole group together if we’re going to overcome this obstacle of losing three games and everyone has a part to play whether they’re fit, injured, part of the support staff – whoever they are, we have to make sure we’re all on the same page and fighting for the same thing.
“We have to think about ourselves as individuals and the things we can control, that’s been the message this week, to forget about the noise, forget all the other things and all the other teams. That’s what we have to do.
“Our focus has always been to be successful this season and that’s what we’ll continue to try to do.”
Newport boss James Rowberry was full of praise for on-loan midfielder Azaz and rubbished any notion that his side, out of the play-off picture, had nothing to play for.
Azaz – the division’s Young Player of the Season – is scheduled to return to Aston Villa at the end of the season, but Rowberry said he has shown his undoubted ability during a successful Exiles spell.
“Finn has been terrific for us,” he said. “He’s still got elements of his game he needs to improve but you can see what he’s about and what he tries to do.
“He could have made today quite easy for himself but he’s a driven individual and I admire that.
“He’s capable of so much. I think he made four starts before I came in – and that’s not about me, that’s about the team and the staff and the collective of the football club and what we can do to develop players and we demonstrated that with Finn.
“We would have liked to be in the mix (for promotion) but, for me, the performances in certain halves of games have been pleasing.
“Today the lads’ attitude and focus pleased me. There was that cliche of us having nothing to play for and we demonstrated what we’re about today.
“The pressure mounts when the play comes on top of you here and that’s something we have to try to deal with too.
“We’re still learning, we make certain errors in a game but we’re trying to get better every day and I’m looking forward to meeting the challenge head-on and moving this club forward.”
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