Exiles striker Marlon Jackson made his long-awaited comeback to the Newport County AFC first-team during the 2-1 defeat to Cheltenham Town in the CheckaTrade Trophy at Rodney Parade.
Jackson had been missing since 22nd July after sustaining a hamstring injury in the pre-season victory over Gloucester City.
But he made his return on Tuesday, starting from the off and playing for 70 minutes, forcing away goalkeeper Scott Flinders into two decent saves; alongside an impressive nutmeg and some dangerous runs at the Cheltenham defence.
As his injury was sustained in pre-season, Jackson was making his first competitive appearance for the Exiles since May, when he did superbly well to hold the ball in the corner for several minutes during the dramatic 2-1 victory over Notts County.
Post-match, he spoke exclusively to iFollow Exiles about making his return, how he thought he fared on his first outing of the campaign and trying to force his way into Mike Flynn’s plans for the remainder of the season.
On the Cheltenham game…
“Well, actually we started quite bad which is obviously disappointing for us giving away two early goals.
“But after that, we really got into the game, I think we were the better side for long periods and played some really good football.
“Obviously we had some young lads in and all of them did brilliantly to be fair, we got back into the game, but Cheltenham had a lot of first-team players and did well to see out the game really.”
On his determination to get back into the first-team fold…
“It’s always hard to get back into the team.
“But with football there’s so many games, this week we’ve had Saturday-Tuesday-Friday, so everyone is going to get a chance.
“You have to be ready to take that chance, you look at Shawn and he comes off the bench, gets his chance and now gets to start so I know I’m going to get minutes.
“The gaffer has told me that I will get minutes and I have to take it really.”
On his performance individually against Cheltenham Town…
“Obviously, you’re never going to be as sharp as you want to be when you’ve been out for that long and with it being during the off-season, it feels like I’ve been out forever really but I’m happy to get the minutes and now try and build on that.
“I haven’t really trained with the boys because I’ve been injured. I’ve only really trained with them two or three days last week, so this is my first time in a match with them. To get so long, 70 minutes, is brilliant and I just need to get that sharpness back.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with the fitness coach after training and stuff like that so hopefully I can keep playing.”
On Lamar Reynolds getting his first competitive goal for County…
“I’m absolutely buzzing for him.
“Lamar is a great lad, works hard every day and you can see the ability that he has got. In glimpses he shows it, the gaffer is working hard with him to get the rest of his game up together, but you can see what he can do.
“He can tear any defender in this league and probably the league higher apart so I’m absolutely buzzing for him.
“He’s one of my close friends so I’m really pleased for him.”
On having another game against Port Vale tomorrow night…
“The next game is always massive for us.
“If we win, we go up to about 5th which is where we want to be. We want to be looking up which is brilliant.
“It’s going to be a tough game, they’ve picked up a few results lately, so we know it’s going to be tough. We’re at home so hopefully we’ll get a good result.
“For me personally, I feel better than I thought I would which is good, we’re in all week so we’ll be in tomorrow recovering and things like that.
“Hopefully by the time Friday comes around, I should be good to go again.”
Mike Flynn elected to give four academy players their debuts during the Cheltenham Town game.
Academy captain Jay Foulston, who has made two prior appearances against Southend and Swansea U23s already this season, started alongside Evan Press, Tom Hillman and Lewis Collins. Owen Taylor came on with twenty minutes to go, actually replacing Jackson in the process.
And Jackson was impressed by the performances from all of the academy players selected by Flynn.
On the academy players selected…
“It’s hard when you put four or five young players in at once because you think the squad could be imbalanced.
“But you could see against what was Cheltenham’s first-team that they all did brilliantly.
“You’d think they could all be ready but it’s a hard, tough and physical league. They are all ready technically, just obviously the other side of the game is what they’ll have to work on individually.”
On them getting first-team experience…
“They trained with us a few times this week to get ready for the game and they did brilliantly.
“They are in and around the changing room all the time because they obviously do our boots and things like that, but they are good lads, played well and gave a good account of themselves.
“They are a credit to themselves and to Byron Anthony who does brilliantly with them, they always work hard, and they are just great, honest lads.”