Flynn press Port Vale

Mike Flynn says the time is right for Newport County AFC to put together a successful run of results and push towards securing a finish in the League 2 play-offs, starting with Saturday’s visit to Port Vale.

The Exiles are currently on a run of seven matches without claiming a victory from all competitions and have slipped slightly aback from the play-off positions.

But Flynn believes that a positive run of results until the end of the season could propel the Exiles into the top-seven.

He affirmed: “You see what Crawley have done now, they have put together a good run and have done very well.

“Notts County on the other hand are going downwards and there is always someone that comes [into contention] late on.

“I’ve said it all season and I think I’m quite consistent in saying that so hopefully it’s us.

“Like I said on Saturday, I’m taking it game by game, got another tough one on Saturday against Port Vale and our captain is missing.”

The Valiants are themselves on a poor run of form and are one of very few clubs in League 2 to have yet secured a win in 2018.

That sees them seven points clear of the drop-zone with 13 matches to play, having gathered just three points from their last six league matches.

But Flynn doesn’t believe the fact that the home side are in the bottom-half of the table gives County any right to expect a victory at Vale Park on Saturday.

“We need to win them all,” he stated.  

“If we want to break into the top-seven then we have to go on a run. It doesn’t matter if it’s against Port Vale or Luton, we want to get points on the board because we have some catching up to do.

“They gave us a very tough game when they came here, and they scored late in that game. They have an attitude that never says die, lost by a small margin to Swindon on Saturday so it shows they have goals in them.

“It’s going to be a tough game, just because they are in the bottom half, it doesn’t mean we are entitled to get three points against them.”

Port Vale boast arguably one of the best results in the league this season with a 4-0 success over league leaders Luton Town coming on 30th December in what was their last league victory.

That is just one of many examples where a bottom-half side has triumphed over a top-half team, and while County did in-fact slip to 14th position in the table following the conclusion of Tuesday night’s three matches, Flynn is expecting another tough test on the weekend.

He added: “I think it shows in this league that anybody can beat anybody.

“It’s about who is the most consistent on the day and I think apart from possibly Luton, it’s been quite an even league.

“A couple of teams have gone on runs and they’ve only won by the odd goal, like Exeter the other night who showed great fightback losing 1-0 in the 91st minute and won.

“It’s tight margins, and we’ve just got to make sure that we pick up more wins than those teams around us.”

The comeback from Exeter against Crewe on Tuesday night means the Exiles now trail the play-off occupying teams by eight points.

County were just six points away from the top-seven a week ago, following a battling draw at home to Notts County.

And Flynn says that result with the Magpies was the perfect way to respond to the defeat to Mansfield Town in the game before.

“It was a determined display,” he commented.  

“It wasn’t a great football spectacle like I said, but it was about stopping the rot and getting back to being tough to beat.

“I think the players responded brilliantly in that manner.”

A positive for the Exiles also came through Joe Day keeping a first clean-sheet since the goalless draw with Lincoln City on 23rd December.

And Flynn believes that was the main positive to take from the stalemate. 

“The most important thing for me was the clean sheet,” he confirmed.  

“It would have been great to win don’t get me wrong, we all want to win football matches, but we haven’t had a clean sheet for a while, so it was good that the boys showed they could do that.

“We knew we could do it, but they still had to go out and show it.”

Shawn McCoulsky was one of three changes made to the starting side at Rodney Parade, making his first start for the side since the Boxing Day defeat to Wycombe Wanderers.

The Exiles failed to register a shot on target according to official statistics, but Flynn feels that the blame for that cannot solely be left at McCoulsky’s door.

He continued: “I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think they [the strikers] had the greatest of service.

“The reason for starting two smaller players against Notts County was that I knew what sort of game it was going to be, and we knew that the two centre-halves were fairly slow.

“I wanted to put a little bit of pace and movement up against them to try and cause them to move backwards and give our midfield a bit of space to come onto the ball and hopefully get in the box.

“It didn’t quite work like that, it was a poor game on the eye if I’m totally honest and that’s not just from our side.

“It goes to show that we are a solid team, they came here and didn’t want to be broken down because they have been in the top two all season.

“Kevin has done a great job there.”

Marlon Jackson also came on in the second-half to feature in consecutive matches for the first time since March 2017.

And Flynn thought his striker performed adequately as he continues to work his way back to full-fitness following a long injury layoff.

“I thought he [Marlon Jackson] did alright when he came on,” he said.  

“He won a couple of headers, like I say they didn’t have the greatest of service and the reason we changed the strikers around was that we realised the game wasn’t going to change that much.

"We had to get a physical presence up there and keep the ball in their half.”

Some team-news on the back of that Notts County match sees captain Joss Labadie serve the first game of a two-match suspension having accrued his tenth yellow card at Rodney Parade.

And Flynn was certainly making it no secret as to how big a miss his captain will be for both the Port Vale game and the subsequent home clash with Accrington Stanley.

He affirmed: “It’s a big blow but it gives somebody else the chance now to step up and stake a claim.

“Not sure what I’m going to do about it at the moment, I will go through a few things in training today and tomorrow.

“We’ll eye it all up and decide what is best. I thought it was a very determined display last week, but we just needed a bit more flair.

He continued: “We haven’t got a like-for-like for Joss.

“He’s a different player, his tenacity, his aggression, we’re going to miss that.

“But it gives somebody else of a different style the chance to come in and see if they can improve the team.

“If they do, they get to keep the shirt from the weekend.”

Defender Scot Bennett will also miss the trip to Stoke-On-Trent through the hamstring injury sustained in the defeat to Mansfield Town.

It could still be up to six weeks before Bennett is able to make a return to the first-team fold, but Flynn confirmed he is the only injury absentee this weekend.

“Scot Bennett is out obviously,” he added.

“Other than that, nothing else at the moment. But I’ve got another two days training yet so I’m not getting carried away.

“It’s the final push now and we want to get everybody available.”

That means striker Paul Hayes is able to make a return to the first-team following a slight groin complaint, with Flynn now able to choose from all five strikers at his disposal.

“Hayesy is alright now,” he continued.  

“Not sure about the match fitness but he’s fully fit, his groin is fine, and he might be in with a shout on Saturday as-well.

“I have a couple of decisions to make but like I say, I’ll do it for what I think will win us the game."

Those suspension and injury concerns mean Flynn will have to make at-least one change from the side that started last weekend.

And he confirmed that there may be a temptation to make further alterations to his starting side at Vale Park.

“There might be changes this week,” he confirmed.  

“I’m going to have to have a look at it if I’m honest. We spoke Saturday after the game, and I thought on the one-side, we weren’t good going forward but we were solid defensively.

“The other side was a little bit better where we had a little bit more up and down so to speak.

“Now that might be something that I look at. I might change formation but it’s tough.

“It’s tough when you play so well defensively, but I have to do what I think will win the game on Saturday.

“I’m not going for a draw. I don’t set up to draw games, I go to win games and I’ll pick a team that I think will win the game so hopefully it does.”

In other club news this week, it was announced on Wednesday afternoon that Jazzi Barnum-Bobb would be leaving the club through mutual consent.

And Flynn wanted to put on record his thanks to the right-back for his effort and determination across the 51 appearances that he made whilst with the club. 

He said: “I spoke with Jazzi in depth and told him that I would always be there for advice if he needed it.

“I told him the parts of his game that he could improve on, he was a great lad and I have nothing bad to say about him.

“It was just unfortunate that it didn’t work out for him here, but I wanted to give him a chance to go on trial before the next season begins.

“On his day he’s a decent player, he just has to find those consistency levels. He needs to go and build himself again and get his confidence back.”