Mike Flynn has challenged his Newport County AFC side to capitalise on the “buzz” that surrounds the club at present and secure a place in the League 2 play-off places.
A league-high home attendance is due to embark on Rodney Parade on tonight for Crawley Town’s visit and Flynn wants his players to relish the occasion of playing in-front of a large crowd.
“Everybody can see the buzz around the club,” he commented.
“It [the buzz] definitely hasn’t been here for a while. I’m a Newport fan as-well and I’m not going to dress it up, there has been no buzz since Justin left.
“But you see the crowd on a Friday night against Crawley and I think it will be close to 6,000.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere again and I think it’s rejuvenated the club if I’m honest.
“It’s given everybody in the city belief, and the players the belief that they are good players, and we are a good team.”
And Flynn went on to urge his players to use the larger crowd to inspire them to all three points.
“It always did [inspire me] when I was a player,” he affirmed.
“The bigger the crowd and bigger the atmosphere, I loved it. I always wanted to play on the big stage, big stadiums but whether there was 10 people there or 10,000 people there, I know the players have given me there all this season and I don’t expect anything else Friday.”
But Flynn also warned his players that the Red Devils will also relish a bumper attendance at Rodney Parade.
“It’s going to be good for them as-well,” he continued.
“They wouldn’t want to come to a flat atmosphere on a Friday night after a long day down for them.
“It’ll bring the best out of them and I’m sure Harry and Warren will have their team ready for us.”
The Red Devils head to South Wales on the back of a drastic upturn in form.
They would sit 6th in the League 2 table based on the last six fixtures, while boasting the best defensive record in the entirety of League 2 outside of the top eight.
And Flynn expects the away side to still be on an upward trajectory after picking up 12 points from the last 18 available.
“Yeah they have,” he said.
“They seem to have got into Harry’s way of thinking and what he wants from his team. And I know Warren will be on to them as-well.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, they have some very good players and it’s not going to be easy that’s for sure.”
By playing a day earlier than their play-off rivals, County have the chance to ascend into the play-off positions for the first time since 21st October.
And Flynn wants that spot in the top-seven consolidated by the time that Tottenham Hotspur visit Rodney Parade in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round in just nine days’ time.
“I’ve already said that by the Spurs game, I want us to be in the play-off positions,” he affirmed.
“That’s our aim and we’ve got two homes games now to do it.
“If we’re ever going to have the chance to do it then it was going to be now. But that’s not taking anything lightly because we lost up at Morecambe and had a very difficult game down at Crawley.
“They are two tough games and as you see in League 2, anybody can beat anybody if you are not on your metal.”
The prospect of that Spurs game being just over the horizon poses the question of which is more important – a potential promotion or a long cup run.
And Flynn confirmed that league positioning will always take precedence above a cup run in his mind.
“It would mean more to me, of course it would,” he stated.
“Are we ready as a club? I think we would be.
“But we would need improvements everywhere, not just off the field but on the field as-well.
“We would need a better squad going into a higher division, better at everything really.
“We’ve got to make sure that we are ready both on and off the field because at the minute, it’s not looking impossible.”
The extra advantage of playing on a separate day to the rest of the division sees County not having to worry about results coming through for the rest of the league.
But Flynn says he will never focus on outside results until the Exiles have secured a victory for themselves.
“I just concentrate on what we do,” he said.
“After the game, we are aware of the results etc but I’m just concentrating on ourselves.
“If we don’t win, there’s no point checking the table anyway because we know that we wouldn’t go up and I’m not interested in going down.”
Some early team-news for the game with Crawley sees positive news coming from the tactical substitutions that Flynn was forced to make in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Grimsby Town.
Matty Dolan, Joss Labadie and Robbie Willmott were all withdrawn at Blundell Park, but Flynn confirmed he expects the trio to be ready on Friday night.
“They are all okay,” he added.
“It was more of a stiff hamstring problem and taking them off as a precaution.
“It was a tough game, a long journey, long week so I’m glad they did that because they were professional.
“Their hamstring could have gone and then we could have missed them for six weeks. So well done.”
That only leaves Marlon Jackson definitely ruled out for the game as Mark O’Brien is another Exile to be passed fit for the contest.
“We’re looking quite good,” Flynn said.
“Mark O’Brien should be back for selection as-well, he has trained today and he’s another one to add back in.”
Having just the one player injured leaves Flynn with a big predicament with regards to team selection, as the Exiles face having four games in the space of just 10 days.
January loan signing and returnee Aaron Collins has yet to register any league minutes so far, while permanent additions Paul Hayes and Josh Sheehan are still waiting for their league berth.
But Flynn remains adamant that he has the perfect squad-depth for what he hopes to be a challenge for the League 2 play-offs.
“That’s what I want,” he commented.
“I don’t want an easy ride. I don’t want to be thinking oh god, I have to pick him today because we’ve got nobody else.
“I want to be explaining to players why they are left out and it’s unfortunate, but they have to go again.”
And that looming cup tie with Spurs has also made the squad want the chance to impress even further.
He continued: “I’m not even thinking of that yet because if the boys don’t play well on Friday and Tuesday then they won’t be playing on Saturday.
“It’s as simple as that really.
“The boys who have the shirt, it’s theirs to lose and for them to keep.
“They are desperate week in, week out. Credit to them because they all want to play. Nobody is happy not to play but they deal with it in the right way and I get the right reactions out of them.
“I’m quite pleased at the moment.”
The game on Friday night will represent a momentous milestone for County goalkeeper Joe Day.
Day will celebrate his 150th league appearance (171 in all) for the Exiles when he steps out to face Crawley and is the current longest serving player at the club.
And Flynn was full of praise for his shot-stopper.
He affirmed: “I’ve said it before, he’s the best goalkeeper in the league by a country mile.
“He’s a great character and he’s a joy to work with. He’s somebody that the boys look up to, no arrogance, no cockiness about him, just gets on with his job and is a credit to himself, his family and this football club.”
The last time County faced the Red Devils, Mickey Demetriou scored two headers in a 2-1 victory at the CheckaTrade.com stadium.
And Flynn was insistent that he was happy with the way his side set out for set-pieces.
He added: “I think anybody who watched the Leeds game would know that we are not a direct football team.
“Yes, we score from set plays because we work on them and we don’t concede many from set plays because we work on them.
“If we score a set piece then I’m more than happy with that.
“I’m not really interested in people’s negative comments on the way we play because the amount of respect and admiration that we’ve had from a lot of managers about the way we play and the way we have improved as a football club has by far outweighed those negative comments shall we say.”
Earlier this week, Exiles striker Aaron Williams left the club via mutual consent in search of a greater opportunity of first-team football.
And Flynn wanted to praise the 24-year old for his commitment to the club during his time in South Wales, where he scored three crucial goals in order to play his part in the ‘Great Escape.’
“With Aaron leaving it has freed up a little bit of money,” he commented.
“He’s saved the club all his wages. There was no money in the settlement, so fair play to Aaron, he realised he wanted to play and was thinking more about next season.
“It’s not just saving us money until the end of the season, it’s June and July as-well. If he went on loan, then we would still have to pay him so he has saved us some money.
“Just because we have had a cup run, that doesn’t mean we have money to burn because we have to use it in better ways.
“At the moment, we are okay on the field barring an injury crisis so look - we are here, there and everywhere at the moment and we’ve had great support from the Velodrome, Dragon Park, Newport Live and we really appreciate it.
He went on to add: “I’ve got no problems with Aaron, he came in every day and tried his hardest. I just think we needed more and I think I needed to be fair with Aaron and tell him that.
“He went away, did what I asked him to do, but I still watched him day in day out in training and I just feel that he was right down in the pecking order and I needed a few players out.”
Last week’s win at Grimsby Town left one negative for Flynn – the inability to fully kill off the Mariners during the game.
And he confirmed that his squad do work tirelessly on finding that killer instinct and has challenged his players to provide a welcome boost to the club’s goal difference in the upcoming games at Rodney Parade.
“Trust me, we work on it day in day out in training,” he said.
“I think we should have a much healthier goal average so if we can kill teams off, it’s going to be scary if I’m totally honest because we create a lot of chances.”
On Tuesday, the Exiles were lucky enough to arrange a behind-closed-doors friendly with fellow play-off contenders Exeter City.
The game afforded Flynn the opportunity to give some much-needed minutes to several of his players, and Flynn was pleased with the output of his side.
“It was a brilliant 0-0 for 70 minutes,” he stated.
“It was end-to-end, I sat with Paul Tisdale and Lennie Lawrence to watch the game.
“The last 20 minutes was a typical end of season reserve game so to speak, but the first 70 minutes were good.
“They had a good team out, we had a decent team out and it was worthwhile.
“I got minutes into Josh Sheehan, Ben Tozer, Tyler Reid and Aaron Collins.
“Also then Modou Touray, Jay Foulston came on as-well so it was useful.”