Mike Flynn has admitted he is expecting a very tough game at Exeter City on Saturday but has backed his Newport County AFC side to go there and get a result by replicating their performances from the last two matches.
For the second successive season, County travel to St James Park whilst the Grecians are atop of the League Two table – that coming after pretty comfortable wins against Carlisle United and Morecambe to start the season.
Like the Exiles, Exeter also recorded a Carabao Cup win in midweek, seeing off Championship side Ipswich Town on penalties following a stalemate in normal time.
And Flynn is expecting the Grecians to come out fighting in-front of their home crowd whilst trying to preserve their superb start to the 2018/19 campaign.
“Every game in League Two is difficult,” he affirmed.
“I’ve said this before and I won’t be getting carried away with anything, they are all difficult matches.
“Matty Taylor will have them organised, full of confidence after the start they’ve had – he’s a new manager coming in, so things might be slightly different to how they have been used to and sometimes that can work in your favour.
“It’s going to be a tough game, they’ve got a lot of good players and they’ll be wanting to put one over on us.”
In the past two seasons, Exeter City have been the losing play-off finalists.
They were beaten by Blackpool 2-1 in 2017, whilst last season saw them again defeated at the hands of Coventry City.
But Flynn believes that the Grecians will look to use that as motivation as opposed to a negative, insisting that any past results and history really is in the past.
He continued: “I thought we should have won their last season but again, that means absolutely nothing.
“That season is gone and it’s now about what we do on Saturday. And as much as we had a good season last year, it’s one that I hope we keep improving upon year after year.
“They’ll obviously be looking at that [losing twice in the play-off final] and saying let’s get in the top three, so we don’t have to go through the play-offs again.
“That’s what I would be thinking if I was playing at Exeter but look, that’s down to them. I’m not really interested in what they are thinking, as long as the boys do the business down there on Saturday.
“Personally, I think they should be up there towards the top of the table [come the end of the season.] Last two seasons, they’ve got to the play-off final. Not too much has changed with their squad, I know a few have gone but I think they’ve recruited well.”
The game in Devon will represent something rather unusual for Flynn as he will be the most experienced manager in either dugout.
That’s because former Grecian Matt Taylor only took his first steps into management in the summer when replacing Paul Tisdale, who before his departure had been the longest serving manager in the Football League having been with the club for nearly 12 years.
Taylor did spend a brief spell with County during his playing days as-well – making just five appearances – but it did give Flynn a chance to meet him for the first time who said: “I know Matty quite well. I came in and did a bit of coaching before he left the club so he’s someone I get on well with.
“We’ve crossed paths since then as he was involved in the Exeter first-team last season and in the youth sides as-well.
“He’s a good lad, another one who is keen to learn and improve – and he’s got his chance now. I wish him all the best but only after Saturday."
He added: “Matty is keen to learn. It’s always difficult at your first club because you are the unknown quantity.
“But he’s at a good, solid club, good fanbase, good finances and good academy. He’s fallen sweetly on his feet with this first opportunity because there are a lot harder ones out there.”
The trip to St James Park follows on from two polished performances by the Exiles that started with their first victory of the campaign against Crewe Alexandra last Saturday.
But Flynn feels his side have played well in all games so far this season and believes they can use those performances as a springboard for the rest of the campaign.
He commented: “Look it’s always good to get the first win under your belt early on in the season.
“But even the Mansfield performance – it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We had a poor 25-minute period in the second-half and they capitalised on it.
“We missed a couple of good chances and it’s just one of those things. There won’t be many teams who will have an easy game at Mansfield and I think Accrington Stanley found that out in midweek.”
That most recent County win against Cambridge United on Tuesday night saw the Exiles book their place in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup for the third time since returning to the Football League.
Asked on who he wants in tonight’s draw (which is live on Sky Sports from 7pm) Flynn affirmed: “Ideal for the club would probably be something like West Ham away because they are a big club who would get a big crowd.
“Something like that would be ideal for the club but it’s not very often that we get the chance to potentially play Cardiff City, who are a Premier League team. It could be a good one.
“The best rivalries in the world are probably Celtic-Rangers, Liverpool-Everton, Man Utd-Man City but they are only rivals really because they are close.
“We’re not a big rival of Cardiff City at the moment because of the gulf between the clubs. But it would be a good occasion. I want to experience it and it would be good to come up against Neil Warnock as-well.”
That composed and polished performance in the First Round of the competition has certainly left Flynn with several selection headaches ahead of the weekend.
But he confirmed that he would not be afraid to make changes if necessary, saying “I think it makes it harder definitely. It was a very good performance but there have been a lot of good managers who have changed winning teams.
“I’m not saying that I am going to do that but if I need to because I think it will give us the best chance of getting a result at Exeter then I will. There were a few people who put their hand up for the shirt and I’ll pick a team which I think will do the business against Exeter City.
“I’m sure there will be one or two discrepancies with what other people might say the team should be but it’s my job, it’s what I’m paid to do, so I’ll pick the team which I think has the best chance of beating Exeter.
“I’ve got a good group of players, I’ll speak to them before and explain my reasons [if there are any potential changes.] They don’t always agree with them but that’s how it’s going to be.”
In terms of team-news for the tie with Exeter, Flynn had some mixed news with regards to his first-team squad.
Having been rested as a precaution in midweek, David Pipe and Andrew Crofts should be fit and ready to return, while there are still question marks on the availability of Mark O’Brien.
Flynn confirmed: “They will be fine [Andrew Crofts and David Pipe.] Those two trained today so fingers crossed that they will be fit for Saturday.
“Mark O’Brien, again he joined in today, so we’ll have to see if there is any reaction to the training load today.
“Robbie Willmott is not going to be right. He’s not going to make Saturday. It’s his hamstring – just one of those things where he trained yesterday, and it hasn’t settled down as well as it could have done.
“It’s a bit disappointing because he’s a very good and important player for us. I would never risk any player back from injury, it’s their careers that they need to think of as-well and as much as it’s frustrating for me, you can imagine how frustrating it is for them.”
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