County boss pleased with transfer dealings for 'ferocious' spell in relegation scrap
NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan believes he improved his squad in January for a “ferocious” spell of the League Two season.
The 19th-placed Exiles start a key block of the campaign against Swindon at Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 12.45pm).
Midfielder Harry Charsley, who signed from League One Port Vale on an 18-month contract, is set for a debut while loanees Harry McNeill, Calum Kavanagh and Matt Baker could feature after arriving from Manchester United, Middlesbrough and Stoke City respectively.
County have just one long-term injury to a defender – whose identity will be publicly revealed when the teams are named at 11.45am, with Coughlan keeping his cards close to his chest – and the boss is pleased with his January work.
“Our aim was to strengthen and improve,” said Coughlan, who allowed defender/midfielder Matty Dolan join Hartlepool for family reasons while Robbie Willmott and Lewis Collins are aiming for regular football at Walsall and Torquay.
“We have good lads in that dressing room and it was just about adding to it with a couple of players to bolster our numbers for a really ferocious 12-week period with 20 games in a short space of time.”
READ MORE: County face vital February
County played just three games in January with fixtures postponed against AFC Wimbledon (frozen pitch) and Grimsby (FA Cup).
The Dons game has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 14 (kick-off 7.45pm) and Coughlan is relishing a proper run of fixtures after a reign punctuated by cup games and enforced breaks.
“It’s been a bit all over the place and chaotic, it’s been tough to get a rhythm and continuity,” said the manager, who was appointed in mid-October.
“I can’t wait to get going and still don’t feel I’ve got any type of consistency, so I am looking forward to the next 20 games coming thick and fast.
“We’ve been working hard and the group’s attitude has been spot-on since we came in. There is a lot to come from the lads.”
The Sky Bet League Two league table has now been updated https://t.co/kwnDCmb5ni pic.twitter.com/vnmrxAifsV
— FWP League Two (@FWPLeagueTwo) January 31, 2023
County are just five points above the relegation zone but will be breathing more easily if they enjoy a strong February with games to come against Barrow (away), Stevenage (home), Walsall (away) and Sutton (home).
They could also do with others, notably Rochdale and Hartlepool, struggling but the manager wants to keep the foot down.
“You are never comfortable. There are 20 games and 60 points to play for,” he said.
“For me, the final straight is the last six games or so and there is still a lot of work to do and lots of growth in this team.
“We are looking forward to the games and after a few weeks off we can’t complain about them coming thick and fast.
“Ask the players and they would rather play games than be on the training ground with me! Games over training has always been the way with players.”
County haven’t won since beating Crewe 2-1 on December 2 but they drew four of the six games since.
“When we came in the mentality was to turn the defeats into draws, now as we grow it’s key to turn draws into victories,” said Coughlan.
“We had to stop the rot, I think that we have done that and changed the mindset. If we couldn’t win, pick up a point but now instead of ones we want threes.”
NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan hailed his unsung heroes for making it a fruitful end to the January transfer window.
The Exiles made two deadline day additions to the squad with forwards Charlie McNeill and Calum Kavanagh arriving from Manchester United and Middlesbrough respectively.
Port Vale midfielder Harry Charsley arrived on a permanent deal earlier in the window, followed by Stoke City’s Wales Under-21s international defender Matt Baker on loan.
Coughlan had his share of frustration in a notoriously challenging window but County’s business looks to have been sound, with the boss and right-hand man Joe Dunne given a helping hand.
“I must mention [head of safeguarding] Kelly Anderson, [interim club secretary] Gareth Evans and [recruitment worker] Chris Finn for their contribution,” said the manager.
“They have gone above and beyond for me and Joe over the last few weeks in the January transfer window.
“They are in the background - and might get embarrassed by a little mention! - but they are brilliant.
“They have stepped up to the plate and there are really good people at this club rallying the troops.
"They can't do enough - they do everything apart from pick the team!”