Putting the heat on - County's fringe players could get Christmas chance to shine

CHANCE? Aaron Wildig will hope to break into the County starting line-up <i>(Image: Huw Evans Agency)</i>
CHANCE? Aaron Wildig will hope to break into the County starting line-up (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

NEWPORT County AFC’s fringe players are putting the heat on the starters and are set to come in from the cold over the busy festive period.

The Exiles head to Hartlepool in League Two on Saturday with the aim of getting a 1-0 home defeat to Doncaster out of their system.

Manager Graham Coughlan called that display “terrible” but suggested his starters have enough credit in the bank for the chance to put things right.

The boss was appointed in mid-October and 13 players have been given starts in seven league games.

The likes of club captain Matty Dolan, stalwart Robbie Willmott, Nick Townsend, Aaron Wildig, Lewis Collins, Sam Bowen and loanees Thierry Nevers, Chanka Zimba and Hayden Lindley are yet to feature in the XI under Coughlan.

Last week County played Swindon in a development friendly and enjoyed a 2-1 win against strong opposition that featured Wales international Jonny Williams fresh from World Cup duty.

Coughlan has fielded settled sides in League Two so far but is prepared to use his squad depth over the coming weeks.

South Wales Argus: County manager Graham Coughlan
South Wales Argus: County manager Graham Coughlan

County manager Graham Coughlan (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“There will be plenty of football over the Christmas period,” he said. “They need to be topped up with minutes under their belts.

“It’s important to get games going into that busy period because it will become a squad game over the Christmas period.

“I like positive problems. The lads that played against Swindon performed really well, they put a shift in and a lot of them hadn’t played for weeks.

“Fair play to them, they have given me a bit of a headache when I am selecting the team and that is all I ask for as a manager.”

Coughlan also had a look at defender Harrison Bright and midfielders Jack Karadogan and Lewys Twamley in the fixture.

“It wasn’t just the senior lads, some of the young lads that came in and played shone as well,” said the Irishman, who worked with Sheffield United U23s before moving to County.

“It was great experience for them to be sharing the pitch with the seniors because if you have good seniors then you will have good juniors. I am really pleased with what I am seeing from the young lads.”

County have a week of preparation for Hartlepool and then nine days until travelling to AFC Wimbledon on Boxing Day, a fixture that is swiftly followed by home games with Leyton Orient and Crawley.

“I enjoy it when you are winning, it’s not a great Christmas is you’re not winning! It will be a tough period with plenty of points on offer – you can quickly go one way or the other in the table,” said Coughlan.