Edinburgh ready to ring the changes
COUNTY boss Justin Edinburgh admits he’s going to have to tear up the rulebook about not changing a winning side with the Exiles facing an almighty fixture pile-up.
The Exiles extended their unbeaten run to seven games at Ebbsfleet United on Saturday but left Stonebridge Road somewhat down in the dumps after missing a penalty with the last kick of the contest that would’ve given them victory.
And that gloom only increased with the news yesterday afternoon that the Exiles’ clash with Gateshead at Hartlepool’s Victor-ia Park had fallen foul of the weather.
It’s the second time the fixture has been postponed and leaves Newport facing 12 games in the next six weeks before the season finale, with four fixtures in seven days at some point a looming possibility. County have also been denied the chance to return to the top of the table.
And despite their fine form, Edinburgh is certain he’ll have to use every member of his squad.
“It’s difficult, we are on an exceptional run and the players have given us that, they’ve stayed in the side on merit,” he explained.
“If I was still a player myself, I wouldn’t want to come out of this team, because you know if they continue to do well, it’ll be hard, or could be hard, to get back in.
“It’s a really difficult one, we re-grouped yesterday but I think you’ve got to be sensible about it.
“We might well have to juggle the squad a bit, I think it’s clear that some of the players look strong enough to continue and some are starting to tire.
“It’ll be slight changes, not wholesale, but with so much travelling and some heavy pitches, we have to be sensible, we’re set for a punishing run of games now.”
Edinburgh confirmed Andy Sandell will no longer be County’s penalty taker after his second miss of the campaign, but wasn’t disappointed with what he felt could represent a valuable point.
“He will come off penalties, it’s harsh on him because he’s scored plenty of penalties for us in the past, we’ll bring someone fresh on now,” he confirmed.
“It’s obviously a blow, when you have a chance to win it late on, but it’s a good point and Ebbsfleet probably merited something from the game.”
Edinburgh is, however, encouraged by the increasing gap between the title challengers (now realistically one of five) and the rest of the sides who would be keen to secure a playoff spot.
“It’s opened up a bit really, there is a gap opening and it’s a genuine battle with the top six all believing they can be champions,” the former Tottenham defender said.
“Ourselves, Mansfield and Kidderminster look the form teams at the moment and as much as the other two (Wrexham and Grimsby) will say Wembley isn’t a distraction, maybe it is.”
Edinburgh was delighted to see Aaron O’Connor, still the Conference top scorer despite six weeks out injured, make his return as a substitute.
“Aaron looked sharp, it’s a positive to have him back, we’ve been patient and now he’s had a little test of the injury, cleared that psychological hurdle and it’ll be a big boost for us to see him return,” he said.