CAPTAIN Joss Labadie insists Newport County AFC now believe they can compete with anyone in League Two.

A brace of goals from the skipper saw off Cambridge United in Sunday’s FA Cup second round clash at Rodney Parade as County recorded back-to-back wins for the second time this season.

And, as the Exiles return to league action this coming Saturday at home to Carlisle United, Labadie says confidence in the camp is as high as ever.

“We’re happy with where we are in the league and we’re in the third round of the cup so it’s all smiles,” said the skipper after his two-goal salvo.

“As a team we’ve managed to bounce back from that late defeat against Barnet [on November 21] and personally I’m happy with my form so far this season.

“We just need to maintain it now and hopefully we can put on a real push in the league.”

The 1-0 win at Swindon Town on November 25 took County up to ninth in the table after 20 games – just two points below the play-off places.

At the same stage last season, when Graham Westley was in charge, they were rooted to the bottom and four points from safety.

But after the remarkable Great Escape from relegation under manager Michael Flynn, Labadie is relishing the difference that 12 months can make.

“It’s amazing and it just shows how quickly football can change,” he said.

“Everyone has worked really hard – the staff, the board, the players and the manager.

“Everyone’s pulled together and we’re making a real push this season, which is very good for the club.

“We finished the season off strong last year and we’ve just managed to maintain the momentum and hopefully we’ll continue that.

“We’re going into games now knowing that we can compete with anyone.

“And we’re not fazed by anyone and I think that’s showing on the pitch.”

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Reflecting on the FA Cup win over Cambridge, Labadie dismissed fears over his fitness after he received treatment in the second half and vowed to add more goals to his game.

“I made a tackle on their left-back and got a knee next to my spine but it was just a little dead muscle and luckily I was able to continue the game,” he explained.

“It wasn’t a great spectacle but the fans stuck with us throughout the game and we managed to pull together and get ourselves in the third round.

“I think the last time I scored two in one game was for Dagenham against York a few years ago now.

“They were two nice finishes – I surprised myself with the second one,” he added.

“It’s always nice to score and hopefully I can get a few more before the season’s out.”

The FA Cup third round draw takes place at 7pm tonight on BBC 2 and Labadie is keen to take on one of the Premier League giants.

“I think a few of the boys will be going out for a beer to watch it on TV,” he said.

“We’ll take any one of the big boys. If we can get an away draw at Man United, Arsenal or Chelsea it would be a big opportunity for the club.”