Edinburgh will field first and second half team at West Ham

First published in Sport by

NEWPORT County boss Justin Edinburgh will play two completely different teams today as his side finish their pre-season programme at West Ham United.

The Exiles were originally due to travel to Salisbury, but cancelled the game with The Whites again facing an uncertain financial future.

The Hammers have stepped in, with their development side ready to battle the Exiles at the Little Heath Sports Ground today, kick-off 3pm.

It should be an interesting test for County with the West Ham U21s unbeaten in pre-season – just like Newport – having faced teams as varied as Braintree and Espanyol.

However, for manager Justin Edinburgh, following impressive victories over Carl Zeiss Jena and a full strength Coventry City, the result is secondary today to fitness.

The Exiles didn’t want to go a full ten days between playing their last friendly and the big kick-off against Wycombe, but they are loath to risk injury at this stage having come through pre-season relatively unscathed.

Only Max Porter has been injured in pre-season, while goalkeeper Jamie Stephens remains between a month and eight weeks from recovering from his long-term injury.

However, the Exiles are set to cover the absence of Stephens with a temporary deal for Canadian goalkeeper Simon Thomas.

The 24-year old is a free agent after leaving Vancouver Whitecaps and is no stranger to the English Football League scene, having spent a season with Huddersfield Town.

He’s yet to feature for County this pre-season, but will get 45 minutes today as Edinburgh rotates his side heavily, planning to field a first and second half team.

Only captain Andy Sandell hasn’t travelled to the east end due to a tight hamstring, with the rest of Edinburgh’s first team squad set for limited action.

“We are sending 20 outfield players and the two goalkeepers and the intention is to do 45 minutes, maximum, for each player,” Edinburgh confirmed to the Argus.

“At this stage I feel we’ve worked really well on our shape and I’ve been pleased with many aspects of our play.

“Obviously we want to see more of that today and we’d like to get the win as well, because winning is a habit, but having everyone fit and available for the Wycombe game is our main priority.

“So we will shuffle it around today and make sure we don’t overly push anyone.”

On Thomas, Edinburgh explained: “He’s still on trial with us at the moment, but we will sit down with him next week and try and possibly arrange a temporary deal, putting him in the window and helping us out when we’ve only got one goalkeeper.”

The Exiles did the same thing last term when Jamie Bittner provided cover for Lenny Pidgeley, who missed the start of the campaign and much of pre-season due to illness.

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