NEWPORT County AFC manager James Rowberry has challenged his fringe players to impress in training as he formulates his plans for the January transfer window.

Rowberry made 11 changes for Tuesday’s Papa John’s Trophy match at Swindon Town and saw his makeshift team exit the competition after a 1-0 defeat.

That means a host of players will struggle for game time between now and January with County only having the league to focus on.

And, ahead of tonight’s League Two clash at Hartlepool United, Rowberry has called on those not involved to knuckle down and force their way into his plans.

Reflecting on Tuesday’s match, the Exiles boss said: “I’ve got a big squad and I gave players opportunities – some of them might have taken them and some of them might not.

“I said everyone would get a clean slate when I came into the football club and I’ve given that opportunity to people.

“I wanted them to give me a headache for selection and they’ve got to impress me in training now.

“I wanted to stay in the competition. I see it as an important competition because it’s an opportunity to develop players.”

Asked about his plans for January, Rowberry suggested that it might be a busy month of comings and goings.

“Naturally, in my head, I’ll have plan A, B, C and D," he said. “You just don’t know what is going to happen with regards to injuries, other clubs possibly coming in for our players, players moving on.

“You have to be prepared for everything and in the next week or two I’ll sit down with the sporting director and the chairman and my assistant manager to try to look at what we might need to do in case X happens or Y happens.

“I’ll be prepared for that and the football club will as far as we possibly can.”

Padraig Amond scored the first two goals of his loan spell at Exeter City on Wednesday night but Rowberry would not be drawn on a possible recall for the striker.

“I haven’t given it a great deal of thought at the minute,” he said. “I’ve got seven strikers including the development lads so I’ve got a lot of players. I’ll give that a bit more thought over the next few weeks.”

After defeats in the FA Cup, at Morecambe, and the Trophy, Rowberry hopes to maintain his 100 per cent record in the league with victory at Hartlepool tonight.

But he insists he’s learned just as much from the losses as he did from victories over Bristol Rovers and Stevenage in League Two.

“I’ve loved every minute of it and long may that continue,” said the former Cardiff City coach.

“I've been in the job since October 19 but it feels longer! I’ve got a few more wrinkles and I can’t say I’m getting grey hair but I’m probably getting a greyer beard.

“When the lads call me gaffer [it feels odd]," he added. “I’m used to Neil Warnock being called gaffer or Mick McCarthy.

“I’m learning a lot about myself and the players all the time and I just want to make my players and my staff better every day.

“I take great pride in trying to help people develop and if I do that then hopefully, they buy into what I’m doing and we can move forward.”