KEEPER Joe Day says Newport County must “smarten up” for Sunday's crunch League Two play-off semi-final second leg away to Mansfield Town if they want to keep alive their hopes of promotion.

After Thursday night’s 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade, the Exiles know victory in Nottinghamshire (kick-off 6pm) would send them to Wembley on Saturday, May 25.

Padraig Amond scored late on in the first leg to cancel out CJ Hamilton’s early strike, but County weren’t at their best against David Flitcroft’s impressive Stags side.

Day, who has kept 23 clean sheets this term, admitted the hosts were slow to hit the ground running and need to be more streetwise at Field Mill.

“We’re still in with a chance,” he said. “We were disappointing in the first half but there was a great response in the second half, and we’ll take that positivity into the next game.

“We were a bit naïve going into the first leg and we need to smarten up for the second leg.

“Our team spirit is what’s going to win it for us. The trait of this side is that we never give up, we go to the end, that’s us in a nutshell.

“We didn’t start as well as we’d hoped in the first leg, but we kept ourselves in the game and managed to sneak back in by hanging on in there.”

He added: “The manager always knows the right thing to say at the right time and he proved it again.

“He said what he needed to say, and it got the response he wanted, and I thought we were much improved in the second half.”

Day has already had a season to remember with the birth of his twin girls, County’s run to the FA Cup fifth round and seventh place in the league, as well as a couple of individual awards.

And reaching the play-off final at Wembley, where he played for the Exiles against Spurs in last season’s FA Cup, would make it even more special.

“Reaching Wembley would be massive,” he said. “To do what we’ve done over a long, hard season and finish it off with a trip to Wembley would be everything.

“This season has been amazing, on a personal level and for the club. It’s been incredible. Let’s just keep it going that little bit longer.

“No-one expected us to make the play-offs with a 10-game unbeaten run, but we did that, and we can do this as well.”

Day was also pleased to see manager Michael Flynn’s substitutions pay dividends on Thursday night, with Joss Labadie and Ade Azeez having a positive impact off the bench.

“Labadie is a big player for us, he always has been since he’s been here, and it’s great to see him back on the pitch after a frustrating injury,” said Day.

“The same with Ade, he’s a physical presence for us and made a big difference when he came on.”

County last visited Mansfield on the first day of the season back in August 2018 – they were on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat on that occasion.

Reflecting on that loss, Day said: “That was the first game of the season and we’re a different team to what we were then.

“Obviously they’ll feel they are probably an improved side as well, but we’ll go there with confidence and we’ll back ourselves, play our game and hopefully we can do it.”