ike Flynn's Newport County side face arguably the most important game of their play-off push as they go away to Northampton Town on Tuesday night, seeking to bounce back from the damaging 3-0 loss infllicted upon them by Colchester United on Saturday.
While goals from Sammie Szmodics, Courtney Senior and former Exile Franck Nouble didnn't see them slip down the league table, the loss sees them seven points off the play-off positions with just a single game in hand and 11 remaining in total. This means that should County lose again on Tuesday, they will be relying on other results going their way if they are to realistically remain in the hunt to extend their season beyond the trip to Morcambe on May 4th.
On the day in which Mike Flynn marked two years in charge of the Exiles, he said of the trip to Essex, "I’ve spoken to the players and I’ve told them that we got outplayed."
He continued, "Actually, in the first 20 minutes I thought we started okay, quite a bright start, even game, but then we got outplayed for the remaining 70 minutes. Look, first goals do change games, but I didn’t feel it was that one which cost us the game."
"Colchester were very good if I’m being honest and we looked way off it. It is what it is; we looked very flat again, we got outplayed, I will not make any excuses."
It was revealed before the game on Saturday that former Forest Green winger Will Randall had signed a short-term loan deal at Rodney Parade. His debut came midway through the second half at the Jobserve Community Stadium and Flynn reflected on his Exiles bow by saying, "Will is very good technically; he’s creative and to be fair, bringing him on was more about getting minutes into his legs because we didn’t have much ball." It is expected that he will get more game time on Tuesday night.
The trip to Sixfields is the seond of three games in a seven-day period for Mike Flynn's side (the home fixture against Cheltenham being moved to Friday night) and he initially looked ahead to it by stating, "Tuesday is a cup-final now."
It is difficult to argue this point, especially given the fact that Keith Curle's side are unbeaten in their last six matches, having last lost in ealry February - against Colchester United - and have won each of their last three outings.
Top scorer Andy Williams and Aaron Pierre both found the net in a 2-1 win over former automatic promotion hopefuls Exeter City at the weekend which saw the Devon side fall out of the play-off places, while the Cobblers themselves sit eight points outside them but are in the best form of any team in mid-table.
County can be buoyed by the fact that their hosts only have five home wins to their name to this point, but there is a deeper point that needs to be addressed; their own away form.
They have lost 11 of their 18 away matches this season. Under Mike Flynn, County have more draws at home than wins on the road and have lost more on their travels than they have won at home. This is the side that adorned the automatic promotion places in the initial stages, following brilliant away wins at Port Vale, Oldham and Tranmere.
But now at this point, on Tuesday night the players themselves have to answer one simple question...We are mathematically in the race for the play-offs...but do we want it?
Only the performance on Tuesday can give us the answer...
Prediction: Northampton Town 2-0 Newport County