Mike Flynn has once again dismissed any talk about where his Newport County AFC side could finish come the end of the season, preferring to be asked the question at “the end of March.”
If the Exiles ever needed any extra motivation for a League Two fixture, it comes in the fact that the side don’t exactly have the best past records with tomorrow’s visitors, Morecambe.
County have never beaten the Shrimps in South Wales, whilst only having won on two occasions up in Lancashire.
Morecambe haven’t had the start to the season that they probably would have desired, but Flynn had nothing but admiration for the side when asked of the challenge his side will encounter at Rodney Parade tomorrow.
He affirmed: “I don’t believe in anything like that [Morecambe being a bogey side] because my second game in charge, we beat them.
“Look, I think Jim Bentley and Ken McKenna are doing a fantastic job there. They’ve probably had the lowest budget in League Two for the last five or six years.
“They are always competitive, that’s one thing, and they play some really good football at times. I sometimes think Morecambe even punch above their weight because they don’t just survive.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jim and Ken and I have to give a lot of credit to them.”
Tomorrow’s game could see a familiar name to County supporters in the Morecambe matchday squad.
39-year old veteran attacker Kevin Ellison is currently in his eighth season at the Lancashire outfit and heads to Rodney Parade having scored past the Exiles on five occasions and won the Shrimps a further three penalties.
Speaking about his former teammate, Flynn added: “Kevin is brilliant. He’s one that every team wants in the changing room, he’s still doing well and looking after himself, he’s a pain in the backside, he’s annoying and he’s funny.
“He’s just Kevin Ellison really. He’s a good friend of mine, we get on well, and I think it’s a massive credit to him as a person that he’s been able to carry on playing at this level at the age he is.
“I’ve played with Kevin as well [as against him] and the best thing to do is wind him up. Smash him early, he won’t like that!”
Some early team-news ahead of the game sees it come too quickly for Joss Labadie, who re-signed for the club on Tuesday.
Flynn commented: “I’m not going to put any timeframe on Joss. He’s working hard, I’ve got a top elite performance person helping out and looking at him, advising us on what to do.
“As long as there’s no reactions, I’m confident that he’ll be in a good position not too far away.”
In more positive injury news, Flynn confirmed that County would have some players available to return. He was keeping his cards close to his chest, however, so the identities of those returnees will remain unknown until the announcement of the official County team tomorrow.
“We’re looking a bit better for tomorrow,” he stated.
“You’ll find out exactly who’s back tomorrow. Robbie Willmott is fine, I’ll say that, but the rest can be found out tomorrow.
“I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it on the bench last weekend. It’s not something I wanted to do believe me, but we had seven out injured and two youth team players on the bench. It wasn’t ideal but fingers crossed, there will be a few coming back.
“I was nowhere near [bringing myself on.] Absolutely nowhere near – I thought I’m not going on there when we’re losing 4-1, they could deal with it themselves.”
County head into tomorrow’s game having picked up a credible point away at Bury FC in midweek, a game where Flynn thought his side got their deserved rewards.
He continued: “If I’m totally honest, if we would have won it at the end it would have been a total smash and grab.
“I thought Bury FC were a very good team and in Danny Mayor, I think they had the best player I’ve seen in League Two this season and probably even last season as well.
“They are a very good team – it was a really good point for ourselves, and Joe Day made two unbelievable saves. For us, it was a great point, we weren’t at our best, had a few players missing but if we can still go there and get a point then it shows how far we have come.”
The only negative for Flynn against a side who had only lost one in nine ahead of welcoming County, and had beaten Notts County 4-0 three days earlier, was the slow start which resulted in Nicky Maynard giving the Shakers the lead midway through the first-half.
Maynard’s spectacular solo effort was the 11th time in 19 fixtures across all competitions that County had conceded first, although that can be counteracted with the fact that the side have shown the desire to accrue 10 points from losing positions.
Reflecting on those statistics, Flynn added: “It’s a bit frustrating if I’m honest because it’s giving teams not just that little head start but a goal then gives them the impetus to attack you more and have that bit more confidence.
“On the positives, it goes to show how well we’re doing when we’re giving teams those starts and the confidence boost, yet still coming back and winning or drawing most of them.”
He added: “I’m all for positive statistics but I’ll give you a negative one – we’ve conceded 12 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches. That is simply not good enough. It’s not something I want continuing and that’s down to the players [to eradicate it.]
“When they cross that white line, they’ve got to keep the opposition out. Almost 50% of the goals [conceded] are in the first 30 minutes so it’s a bit frustrating.”
The obvious positive from The Energy Checks Stadium at Gigg Lane was that Jamille Matt’s purple patch continued with a predatory finish.
That’s nine for the season already for County’s current top goalscorer, and Flynn believes Matt helps compose the best County attacking line he’s had since taking charge of the club.
He said: “Jamille’s been brilliant. He’s been linking the play, got a good partnership with whoever he plays with and he’s really enjoying his time here.
“100% it is [the best attacking line I’ve had here.] We’ve got four good strikers, it’s a really strong unit.”
In matching Exeter City’s result in midweek, County stayed outside the automatic promotion places by just a solitary point.
The Exiles have occupied at-least a play-off spot since matchday five – the win over Grimsby Town on 25th August – but Flynn refuses to read too much into the league positions with the table still in its infancy.
He affirmed: “The players can talk all they want about it [promotion] as long as it’s not around me and I can’t hear it.
“Nothing is done, we’ve played 15 games in League Two and that’s the last thing on my mind if I’m honest.
“I’d probably say the end of March is [a realistic time to talk finishing positions.] That’s when you start getting down to the nitty-gritty.
“After the Christmas period, you’ll also have a rough idea of whether you have a chance or not but there’s a lot of football between January 1st and the middle of March.
“That’s been proven from when I took over and we were ‘relegated’ at that point, or so everybody said. A lot of things can change, for good and bad, so it’s definitely something that I’m not thinking about at the moment and that is the truth.”