ewport County take their longest league trip of the season this Saturday as they take on Carlisle United at Brunton Park. To this point, it is unclear how bad the squad-debilitating injury situation is going to be come the 562-mile round trip this weekend.
Mike Flynn acknowledged that the three players that came off against Morecambe (Bennett, O'Brien, Matt) aren't as bad as first thought but isn't sure if this weekend isn't too soon for their return. He admitted, "There will be a couple of last minute decisions." This is in addition to still being without defender Fraser Franks, who continues his suspension after his red card against Crawley.
The Exiles have only won one of their last six matches but on the flip side, have only been beaten once in the same timeframe. Last Saturday's disappointing draw at home to Morecambe has left County in 4th position in the table, just four points off Lincoln City, who currently occupy the top spot.
On being so close to the team widely tipped to run away with the league, boss Flynn said, "I'm delighted with the start we've made. I'd have liked an extra 4 points which I think we've deserved from games this season. There'll be games we lose where deserved to win and there'll be those we'll win where we didn't - it'll even itself out over the season."
Flynn reflected on the 1-1 result in a very matter-of-fact way, saying "There's nothing we can do about it; we can't change the result. We should have won, but we didn't. We've got to try and win on Saturday."
He continued by heaping praise on a set of players who, while being decidedly threadbare, have remained competitive in a league which is capable of throwing up a surprise. He said, "It's a testament to the players; they're a great group, they keep going. Let's not forget we're only Newport County, we have got no divine right to just turn up and win football matches."
After an initially good start to the season (10 points from their first five matches), Carlisle have somewhat gone off the boil, losing three of the last four league games (including to Macclesfield, giving the bottom side their only league victory to date) and falling to 16th position in the table.
Nevertheless, Flynn knows that this Saturday still has the potential to be a very tough fixture. He told the press, "They've conceded late against Yeovil - they're going to be hurting so it's going to be a tough game; they'll be in our faces. It's a long journey, it's not ideal but everybody's got to go there so we've got to be up for the challenge and hopefully we'll have a few more back and we can have a good go."
He once again reserved a lot of praise for his managerial counterpart, declaring, "Shez (John Sheridan) is a very very good manager, very technically aware. He was a top player. He'll have them ready to respond to a disappointing run; he won't stand for that for too long. He was a winner, he doesn't suffer fools."
It goes without saying that County could really do with a win on Saturday; their last trip away from Rodney Parade was a near disaster and teams in the pack beneath them in the table are bunching together. Carlisle haven't scored in their last five home games which may come as some sort of solace but, as all fans know, form is temporary and trends don't continue forever. If County can welcome back some injured players, then the difference in quality should show through for a positive result. With other top-half sides playing each other this Saturday, that could be very important.
Prediction: Carlisle United 1-1 Newport County