BEN Tozer has declared himself fit and ready to play if required for tomorrow’s summit meeting with Exeter City – a match he describes as “a benchmark” for Newport County AFC.

After a 20-minute cameo in the Carabao Cup at Leeds United last week, Tozer played for 70 minutes as County were beaten 2-0 at Forest Green Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.

It was a first start since January for the 27-year-old who fell out with previous manager Graham Westley last season.

Tozer then underwent a knee operation but he signed a new one-year contract this summer to remain at Rodney Parade.

And he’s delighted to be back on the pitch after a frustrating seven months.

“It’s nice to be back involved, be around everyone and get some time on the pitch,” said Tozer.

“I was hoping for 90 minutes but we were losing and if we’d made a third sub and then I’d cramped up I would have been a hindrance to the team.

“I felt fit but my calves were starting to twinge a little bit.

“But I’ve only been back in training for two weeks and for me to play 70 and not feel knackered lung-wise I was quite impressed with that, if I’m honest. I feel good.

“It wasn’t ideal last season carrying a knee injury and playing through it,” he added.

“I could have had the operation a bit earlier but these things happen.”

Tozer does not want to reveal what went on between him and Westley last season but he is keen to make up for lost time.

“Stevenage away was the last start and a lot has changed since January,” he said.

“It almost feels like I’ve been out injured for seven months but obviously that’s not the case.

“It was a bit of a surreal situation. I’m not going to go into the details but things happen and you’ve just got to get on with it.

“It wasn’t ideal for me or the club but I’m thankful for the club staying up and having the opportunity to come back and get fit.

“It was very nerve-wracking at the end of last season just because I had no influence on it whatsoever.

“And as soon as that final whistle went in that final game the relief was enormous.

“The new deal was triggered due to the number of games I played and it’s nice to hear the manager say I’m like a new signing.

“I just want to repay that and do well and if we keep our form going in the league you never know what might happen.”

Tozer has been impressed with what he’s seen from the Exiles so far this season.

Michael Flynn’s men are second in the League Two table and he believes they can keep their unbeaten league record intact at leaders Exeter tomorrow.

“We don’t want to get carried away but we’ve got good ingredients in the team,” he said.

“We’ve got a stable back four, competition for places in midfield and up front we’ve got pace and power.

“Exeter will be a tough one but it’s something to look forward to. You like to test yourselves against the best and it is a benchmark for us.

“They’ve been together for many years and they’ve got an identity in the way they play but we can definitely go there and nick the points, I think.

“They’re a team that’s been building and building, whereas the gaffer here has put his mark on the team in six months and it seems to be working already.

“You wouldn’t call it a six-pointer but it’s a big game and if we don’t get the three points away from home we need to make sure we get one.”