Mike Flynn has challenged his Newport County AFC players to become the first side in League Two to defeat Forest Green Rovers this season when they travel to The New Lawn tomorrow.
Rovers are the only team in League Two – and one of five in the top four divisions – to still have an unbeaten start to the campaign but too many draws in that run has thwarted their progression up towards the automatic promotion places.
They have yet to taste defeat in normal time – they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties against Wycombe Wanderers – and Flynn wants to use those statistics to motivate his players in Nailsworth.
“Very, very tough game because they have improved a lot this season,” he affirmed.
“Mark Cooper is a very good manager, been around now a while, and they have some really good players.
“They are still unbeaten this season so it’s going to be a tough one. I know we’ll have a lot of fans there, it’s quite local, so I’m looking forward to the atmosphere there but it’s going to be a tough game.
“It’s a game where we’ll need to be 100% on it and ready from the start.”
He added: “Look, they are still unbeaten. Got some good points on the road as well, I think it’s 13, so they are showing how difficult they are to beat now.
“But the record is there to be broken and let’s go there and be the first team to beat them in League Two this season. We’ll go there trying to win the game and we’ll know at 5pm.”
County will certainly have fond memories of recent trips to the stadium, having won the previous two league matches – last season’s 4-0 triumph and on Boxing Day 2013 in the Conference Premier.
Sandwiched between those trips include a friendly defeat at the stadium in the summer of 2016 and another loss in the CheckaTrade Trophy, but County are unbeaten from all of their previous league visits.
And while Flynn expects Rovers to provide an altogether different challenge tomorrow, he does hope the travelling supporters make it another atmosphere to remember during the contest.
“It was a brilliant atmosphere last season,” he recalled.
“It’s always good when you're winning 4-0 but from the offset, the crowd were brilliant. And I remember when I played there as well, the crowd really get going on the one side.
“It’s a small ground and it’s not very often that the away fans can make more noise than the home fans. This is one of those stadiums that it can happen.
“We’ve had a great following so far, there’s been some long away games in there as well, so let’s hope we go and put on a show for them because we want to keep our run going and keep putting more points on the board.”
Some early team-news ahead of the game sees Flynn confirm that midfielder Charlie Cooper cannot play against his parent club due to a clause in the loan agreement.
He confirmed: “No it’s part of the loan agreement [that Charlie can’t play.] He’ll miss tomorrow which is a shame because on Tuesday, I thought second-half he looked a lot better than he had been doing.
“It was a big improvement for his confidence as well so it’s hard now that he’ll miss this one.”
In other team news, Robbie Willmott is back available to feature having served his three-match suspension, while Flynn was also able to provide a fitness update on some other members of the squad.
“The obvious one is that Robbie Willmott is back from suspension,” he stated.
“It’s good timing that Robbie is back because we’re a small squad and if Cooper and Robbie would have both been missing tomorrow, we’d have been struggling in midfield.
“Only Mark O’Brien is ruled out and Matty Dolan and Andrew Crofts are not too far away. They are possibilities. With Mark, we don’t know on an exact timescale but it’s not as bad as we thought.”
The game comes at a good time for County with the news this morning that Flynn was awarded the manager of the month award.
That accolade comes after a stellar month for the Exiles where they managed to pick up 12 points from 15 in September, including all nine points available on the road.
Flynn commented: “We had a good run of form in September but listen, I know it’s me who stands there with the photos, but this award is for the staff, the players who all deserve the recognition.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be getting the award. That’s what we’re about – we win and lose together, and I’d like to thank them for that as well.
“We had a blip within the month but again, the players showed the character, the resilience and their quality to bounce back from that and get some very, very good wins on the road and against Cambridge at home.
“It was a very pleasing month and if you say to me that we’ll have 12 out of 15 points for the next eight months then I’ll bite your hand off.”
Having received the award, Flynn also takes the honour of being the first County manager to win it since returning to the Football League in May 2013.
Justin Edinburgh was nominated on a couple of occasions during his stint as manager but never won the award, although he did in the Conference promotion season, while Dean Holdsworth was also recognised but that only came in the Conference South title winning team.
Flynn continued: “I think Justin Edinburgh was nominated a few times, I’ve had a few nominations as well so I’m proud [to be the first County manager to receive this award in the Football League] but it’s only October now.
“We need to get on and my aim is to try and get us another one this month or next.”