NEWPORT County AFC players have had to show plenty of fighting spirit over recent months but Andy Sandell is taking things one step further.

Once the football season is over on May 3 the Exiles defender will step up his training for his first boxing match this summer.

Sandell celebrated his goal in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Burton Albion by boxing the corner flag at Rodney Parade and he will step into the ring for real in Chippenham on July 5.

The 30-year-old began boxing as a way of keeping fit but now he’s taking it more seriously and he can’t wait for his first bout.

“I’ve always enjoyed boxing,” he said. “It keeps me fit in the summer and it’s something I look forward to.

“I’ve done a lot of sparring with boxers and MMA fighters.

“And I got taught a real lesson by a UFC fighter called Bradley Scott.

“It was a bit like someone from a Sunday league team coming in to train with us; it’s a massive step up in class.

“This will be my first proper fight but hopefully I’m prepared and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Sandell is out of contract with County at the end of the season and he admits that he’s not sure if he’ll be part of the Exiles’ future.

“I haven’t got a clue, to be honest,” he said. “I’ll have to have a chat with the manager after the season is over and see what’s what.

“I’d like to stay. This is probably the longest I’ve stayed at any club and I enjoy it here.

“The lads are great and the gaffer, Jimmy Dack, Wayne Hatswell and Tony James are good to be around.

“And with them in charge hopefully they’ll ensure we’ll be challenging for promotion next year.”

Before then there is tomorrow’s trip to York City and next week’s final game at home to Rochdale.

Both opponents are in contention for promotion but Sandell is relishing the test after County’s recent upturn in form saw them steer clear of the relegation battle.

“We played some decent football on Monday and it was a joy to play in,” said Sandell.

“People say the pressure is off now but I don’t think there was ever any real danger of us going down.

“We’ve got a good set of lads here and if we add a few more in the summer hopefully this time next year we’ll be in the play-offs.”

For tickets to watch Sandell fight on July 5 call 01249 444354.