GOALKEEPER Nick Townsend believes the honour of being the first name on the Newport County AFC teamsheet is made even special by the calibre of the man he is keeping on the bench.

The 27-year-old is set to make his third start on the spin when the Exiles head to Rodney Parade this afternoon (kick-off 12.30pm) with Joe Day the back-up.

It's a change of roles from the first half of the campaign, with Townsend making the most of his teammate's misfortune.

Day tested positive for coronavirus in December, leading to the Brummie starting in the Black Country against Walsall on New Year's Day.

It was a 3-3 draw but the 'keeper wasn't at fault for any of the goals and kept his spot for last week's 2-0 loss to Salford, where once again the finger of blame couldn't be pointed for his efforts.

After battling Tom King for the start between the sticks last summer, Townsend admits to a hint of deflation when discovering that that Day was returning to the club.

The pair get on but Townsend, who signed a fresh contract through to 2023 last April, knew he it was on the cards that he would be understudy at the start of the season.

South Wales Argus: RIVALS: Joe Day with Nick Townsend after the 8-0 loss to Premier League SouthamptonRIVALS: Joe Day with Nick Townsend after the 8-0 loss to Premier League Southampton

"Anyone would be the same, I did think 'oh, it's going to be an uphill battle again to get in'," admitted Townsend, who has made 73 appearances for the club since signing in 2018.

"It has been hard because I had an injury in pre-season and then you are 10 steps behind, but it's good competition and bringing in Joe has been massive.

"Everyone knows what he can do, he's a good lad around the changing room, he's a great trainer and in games he has been class for us.

"It has been hard but now I've got to keep the shirt. When you get in ahead of Joe it is a badge of honour but you can't afford to get complacent."

Day earned a move to Cardiff City thanks to his first spell in Newport, when he was arguably the best stopper in the fourth tier.

"Me keeping him out is a big deal because I what a good goalkeeper he is," said Townsend, who cites Shay Given as a goalkeeping inspiration with the Bluenose quick to point out from the Irishman's Newcastle days rather than Aston Villa.

"We both keep each other on our toes and it's hard to keep the shirt. You have got to make sure you are on it every day and in every match.

"It's a ruthless position and if you are not playing then you need to make sure you are doing everything right."

Townsend may have been blameless for the five goals conceded since his recall but the 'keeper, who picked the ball out of the net eight times against Southampton in the EFL Cup, knows County must be tighter as a unit.

The Exiles have been a tough nut to crack traditionally and had the fourth meanest defence in 2020/21. They are currently ranked 19th out of 24.

"Our defensive record has been good, we have set the bar high and we need to get back to that," said the goalkeeper.

With the fans locked out of Rodney Parade one last time, Townsend would love a quiet afternoon in more ways than one.