ewport County return to Rodney Parade to face Morecambe this Saturday buoyed by a battling display in the draw at Bury on Tuesday night.
Mike Flynn called the outcome of midweek's game "a brilliant point" while acknowledging that "we weren't at our best, we still had a few missing but if we can go up there and get a point with what we had missing then it shows how far we've come."
Joe Day was a particular hero that night, making a series of brilliant saves to preserve the Exiles' point; this came as a soothing tonic after the 4-1 battering the side took against Crawley last Saturday. It is hoped that this will provide the inspiration needed to get back to winning ways and halt a stumble before it becomes a slide.
While County have slipped to 4th position in the table following just a single win in the last five outings, dropped points from both Exeter City and Lincoln City in recent weeks mean they remain just a point off the automatic promotion places.
Jamille Matt is on fire right now; the front man, who couldn't buy a start at the beginning of the season, has scored six goals in the last seven matches in all competitions and will fancy his chances against a side that has lost four of their last five games in league and cup competition. Their only victory in the same timeframe came was 2-0 away to early-season league leaders Carlisle United. Boss Flynn said of Matt's season, "He's been brilliant,he's got a good partnership with whoever he plays with; he's really enjoying his time."
Fans will have to wait for the first appearance of Joss Labadie since re-signing earlier this week; it is thought that it'll be a further three weeks before the Croyden-born midfielder is match-fit following his long-term ligament injury. Former Exiles captain Labadie, 28, said of his move, "I’m absolutely buzzing to be back. It’s good to finally get this over the line and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. The knee’s all good and I can’t wait to get going now. It’s been a long seven months."
Boss Mike Flynn had hinted that this was a move that he was open to and said of finally getting it done, "I’m over the moon to have Joss back. He’s a fantastic player, a great leader and adds quality to what we’ve already got."
Jim Bentley will bring his side to South Wales eager to improve on the four points they took from the men in amber last season; a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade was preceeded by a 2-1 victory at the Globe Arena last September. However, ten defeats from their 15 league games this season will have County licking their lips; only bottom club Macclesfield and 22nd-placed Notts County have conceded more goals this term than Morcambe.
Despite this, Flynny was eager to praise the management team at Morecambe: "Jim [Bentley] and Ken [McKenna] are doing a fantastic job there; they've probably had the lowest budget in the league for the last five or six years. They're always competitive, thats one thing; they play good football at times and I think sometimes they punch above their weight - I've got a lot of respect for them."
The main threats to County will likely come from Vadaine Oliver and A-Jay Leitch-Smith, who both got on the scoresheet in the 2-0 victory at Carlisle a few weeks ago, and a man who County fans have an...interesting...relationship within Kevin Ellison. Often one to thrust himself into the limelight against Newport, Ellison bagged both goals in the victory last September and at the age of 39, he will still cause problems for County on Saturday.
While Morecambe will be keen to build on their results against us last term, I suspect that County will have too much for the Lancashire side. With the creativity of Robbie Willmott, hard work of Padraig Amond and the confident touch and finishing ability of Jamille Matt (among other good performances), the home side are likely to bank all three points on Saturday
Prediction: Newport County 2-1 Morecambe
I will be live-tweeting updates from the game this Saturday; give me a follow at @DanielFrazer7 for coverage or just to chat about all things County!