Mike Flynn says his Newport County AFC side are looking to end the season in as strong a position as possible across the final five remaining fixtures this season, starting with the trip to Barnet tomorrow afternoon.
The Bees are currently in a similar position to what County were in themselves at this stage of the campaign last season, with the home side currently trailing Grimsby Town by five points ahead of the season run-in.
That means they could theoretically be relegated at the Hive tomorrow, but that would only happen should County win in the capital and other results go against them.
And Flynn has warned his side against complacency ahead of the game, owing to the fact that the Exiles were able to pick up some notable victories against higher opposition when fighting for their lives 12 months ago.
“We will never underestimate anybody, certainly not while I’m here,” he affirmed.
“It’s League 2 and anybody really can beat anybody. They beat us last time and I thought they played very well against us.
“They were a strong outfit when they beat us at home and it’s going to be a tough game.
“They are fighting for their lives and in all honesty, there’s no pressure on us. We need to go out and enjoy it - play the football match and certainly not the occasion.”
Sitting in the Barnet dugout come kick-off will be vastly experienced manager Martin Allen, who is currently undergoing his fifth tenure with the club.
The 52-year old has currently managed five matches in this latest spell at the club, with Barnet able to secure victories on every occasion at the Hive since his appointment.
Allen also faced the Exiles on four previous occasions during his last spell with the Bees - winning on two occasions, drawing once and losing the other match.
And Flynn was certainly full-of-praise for the work that Allen has done during his career to date.
“Martin has done it a lot of times,” he said.
“He’s a great bloke and somebody that I have always gotten along with. It will be good to see him on the weekend and it’s going to be hard for him.
“There wasn’t really much time for him to work with so as much as I want to win the football match, let’s hope we do that on Saturday but Barnet still stay up.”
Upon the conclusion of the match in the London Borough of Harrow, County will have a further three days to prepare for facing Accrington Stanley at Rodney Parade on Tuesday.
Stanley have already secured promotion into League 1 following the 2-0 success over Yeovil Town in midweek, although could head to South Wales as League 2 champions depending on the results tomorrow.
And Flynn believes the achievements of the Lancashire outfit, who have the smallest stadium in League 2, is nothing short of remarkable.
“I think it’s brilliant,” he stated.
“I rang John [Coleman] on Wednesday and had a conversation with him. It’s what you do, you show the respect to your fellow managers and people that you have time for.
“He was very appreciative, and I think he’s done a tremendous job. He’s got a good team spirit at Accrington, we’ve got a great team spirit here, but there one has clearly done the trick.
“It really is a phenomenal achievement with what they have done. First time in the third tier since re-forming and it’s good that John was the man to take them there. He has a lot of love for that football club.
“It’s a small family club and I’m buzzing for them.”
Two victories in those aforementioned games would see the Exiles close the gap on the League 2 play-off positions even further, with the side currently eleven points adrift of Coventry City in 7th place with a game in hand.
And Flynn is adamant that there is still a lot to play for this season.
“The season is not over because we are 12th,” he added.
“If anyone would have asked the supporters, myself, the media if they thought Newport County AFC could have got to the fourth round of the FA Cup and then finish in the top half then they would probably say no.
“We’ve got a very good chance of doing that, of course we’re disappointed that we had a bit of a bad run at a crucial time, but we have to take the rough with the smooth because you can’t be good every week.
“We’re aiming for the best possible finish that we can possibly get.”
Some positive news concerning off the field matters has seen defender Ben White rewarded for his excellent performances in a Newport County AFC shirt, signing a new deal with parent club Brighton & Hove Albion until 2021.
And Flynn believes the centre-back deserves his new deal after some glittering performances in the heart of the County defence.
“He’s got a new contract – three and a bit years – and he deserves it,” he said.
“He’s an exceptional talent, very good professional and he’s a top lad. He works hard day in day out and his talent is there for all to see on a matchday.
“He’s got a great future ahead of him.”
White has currently made 47 appearances to date for County across all competitions, including scoring his first Football League goal in the reverse fixture against tomorrow’s opponents Barnet.
And Flynn believes more players should consider joining Football League clubs in the coming seasons, as opposed to staying at their parent club and participating in the academy system.
He stated: “It’s a totally different environment [to Brighton and the U23s] but the ones who are mentally strong enough and that are prepared to put in the work, will reap the benefits from it.
“I think what it does as-well is it shows that we are looking after the players in the right way. Premier League clubs and top Championship clubs, who maybe are thinking about loaning players to us, will use Ben White as an example and hopefully we can do the same for their players as-well.”
He continued: “There’s no doubt about it – we will unfortunately be losing him [at the end of the season.]
“If I’m totally honest, he needs to go up at-least another league or try and break into the Brighton first-team during pre-season or whatever.
“He’s done what he needed to do. Ben has come to the club, been exceptional, and that’s a credit to him.”
Some early team-news ahead of the latest batch of fixtures for the Exiles sees Joss Labadie taking another key step on the way back from his anterior-cruciate-ligament injury.
The County captain has been able to start the first phase of rehabilitation since sustaining the injury in training last month, although there is still a lengthy timeframe on his return.
But Flynn believes the way that Labadie has battled back since his operation will see him return from injury as a better player.
He added: “It’s the best he’s moved all season!
“It’s rehab time now. As frustrating as it will be for him, it’s good that he’s around the boys and that he gets to see them. To have that day to day interaction or banter, whatever you call it these days, will be important for him.
“He will have dark days, he will be down and feeling the blues - but he’s a great lad and he’s positive. He will work as hard as he can to get back as quick as he can and stronger than when he went out.
“Hopefully he will come back like a new signing.”
More team-news ahead of the trip to the Hive sees Flynn still missing a couple of strikers.
The Exiles had a behind-closed-doors friendly against Championship outfit Bristol City in midweek, a chance Flynn took to give some players much needed minutes on their way back from several injury problems.
And that plan seems to have worked as Flynn revealed that he virtually has a full team available to choose from.
“Shawn McCoulsky is out, Marlon [Jackson] probably as-well,” he confirmed.
“We’ve still got Friday left but that’s it for now. We’re doing this [press conference] before training but yes, we are looking a bit better at the moment compared to last week.
“We had a reserve game on Tuesday against Bristol City and it was a very good run out.
“We had the chance to watch Bristol City train with Lee [Johnson.] It keeps that relationship going, especially ahead of next season, and I played a lot of [first-team players.]
“Our team was James Bittner in goal, Tyler Reid and Calaum Jahraldo played, Mark O’Brien and Josh Sheehan played as did Frank and Hayesy. Momodou [Touray] and Jay Foulston played as-well.
“It was positive and they all got minutes under their belt. When we finished, we had nine academy players on the pitch. It was a very worthwhile exercise.”