NEWPORT County AFC manager Michael Flynn is delighted to see Mark O’Brien return to fitness but he’s warned the Great Escape hero that he’ll have to earn a return to the starting XI.

O’Brien returned from an ankle injury sustained in pre-season to claim a place on the bench for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Exeter City.

The 25-year-old centre-back should be available for tomorrow night’s home clash with Notts County, who were the opponents when he scored a dramatic late winner to keep the Exiles in League Two back in May 2017.

But the form of Mickey Demetriou, Scot Bennett and new signing Fraser Franks means O’Brien may have to bide his time before claiming a starting spot.

“Mark’s back and that gives us more competition for places,” said Flynn.

“He’s going to be frustrated missing the start of the season but the boys at the back have been outstanding so he’s got to earn the right to get back in the team.

“I want this healthy competition and I want to be sitting down with players explaining why I’ve left them out.

“I don’t want easy decisions to make and I’ll always decide 100 per cent on what I think is best for Newport County.

“It doesn’t matter who they are, if I don’t think that they’re in the best XI to get a win then they won’t play.

“I don’t always get it right but I like to think I’ve got it right more often than not.”

Defender David Pipe is a doubt for tomorrow’s match after being forced off with a knock at Exeter and Robbie Willmott is almost certain to miss out again with a hamstring injury.

But captain Andrew Crofts “should be fine,” according to Flynn.

“If he’d played [at Exeter] he might not have played on Tuesday and I think he might be more suited to what we're going to need against Notts County,” explained the Exiles boss.

“He’s got a big infection in his toe. It was a corn or a blister, which got infected and he’s seen the doctor and had antibiotics but it’s not settled down.

“It’s been a case of managing so far. It has been restricting him in all the games.

“It’s a real sore one but let’s hope that it finally disappears this week.”