NEWPORT County boss Justin Edinburgh has challenged his team to respond in a big way against Braintree after a hugely disappointing week for the Rodney Parade outfit.

Edinburgh wants a positive result and performance tomorrow night following last Saturday’s defeat to lowly Barrow and the last-minute postponement of their trip to Woking.

The Exiles risk losing further ground on top spot if they produce a below-par performance and Edinburgh, who remains keen to add to his squad, has laid down the gauntlet.

“The fans want better, they expect better and I do too, the players have been told in no uncertain terms that they need to bounce back and we had hoped to do that at Woking,” he said.

“We need to get back to the level we know we are capable of and I’m talking the form and the run we showed in August, September and October.

“The players still have the quality, I have full belief in them and we want a response.”

The Exiles are without Conference top scorer Aaron O’Connor, who has a torn thigh and is likely to miss around a month of action.

The battle to replace the former Luton striker appears a straight fight between Danny Crow and Conor Washington, the latter understood to have caught the eye of the manager in recent weeks during training games, including a 3-2 win over a strong Swindon Town reserve side.

Despite O’Connor’s absence there is good news for County with influential midfielder Max Porter likely to return from injury, having taken part in recent fitness sessions with his team-mates.

Ominously for the Exiles, 2-1 winners in Essex in the reverse fixture, Braintree visit Rodney Parade as yet another side with a better away than home record.

The Iron, managed by former England international Alan Devonshire, have won six games on the road this season including a 4-2 triumph at Nuneaton on Saturday, compared to just four victories at home.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh continues to try to improve his squad ahead of the end of the transfer window at 11pm on Thursday, January 31.

The manager wants at least one defender between now and Thursday and watched title rivals Grimsby draw 0-0 at Cambridge United at the weekend on a scouting mission.

l County’s televised away game at Luton on Friday, February 15, will have to be rearranged because of the Hatters’ FA Cup heroics.

Luton will now be in round five action after stunning Norwich on Saturday.