NEWPORT County AFC manager Justin Edinburgh has sent out a warning to his players by insisting that from now on those who flop face the chop.
Ring rusty County went down to a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Hartlepool United on Saturday in their first outing since January 31.
Strikes from Luke James and Luke Williams, either side of an Andy Sandell own goal, condemned the Exiles to their fourth defeat in six games.
Edinburgh’s men were leapfrogged by their hosts in the League Two table, dropping to tenth, but are still eight points off the play-off places with three games in hand.
Five of those last six matches have been away from home due to the waterlogged Rodney Parade pitch but if the rain holds off the next five are all at home for the Exiles.
That run starts against Oxford United tomorrow night and Edinburgh says he will not be afraid to be ruthless with his team selection now that his squad is nearing full fitness.
“There were a lot of positives with Max Porter and Chris Zebroski coming on and, as I said to the players, they have to be looking over their shoulder now because there are players that didn’t even make the bench on Saturday,” said the Exiles boss.
“If players don’t step up and take their chance then we’ve got players to come in and take their place now, which is good for me at this crucial time.
“We’ve got five at home now and after those five I think we’ll have a good idea of how the season is going to pan out.”
Edinburgh was reluctant to blame his side’s recent inactivity for defeat at Victoria Park but conceded that it did play a part.
“The lack of games hasn’t helped,” he said. “We’re not going to use it as an excuse for why we lost but it was our first game in two weeks.
“We haven’t played much football this year but hopefully we can start getting back to winning ways now.
“We need to get going again and hope the weather is kind to us.
“We’ve got five home games now and we need to start picking up points against Oxford. It’s a big game.”
Edinburgh is hopeful that the improved weather over the weekend will lead to tomorrow’s game going ahead as planned and if it does it will be the Exiles first match at Rodney Parade since the shock 2-1 defeat to Northampton Town on January 4.
“The weather has been horrendous and I think everyone at the club has been doing their utmost to get games on but it’s been a real uphill battle,” said Edinburgh.
“But we know those games have got to come and we need to make sure we capitalize on them when they come.”