IT WAS just like old times at Rodney Parade on Saturday as the ghost of Christmas past visited in the form of a postponement due to a waterlogged pitch.

The Welsh Rugby Union’s £750,000 investment in a new Desso hybrid pitch in the summer of 2017 has transformed the playing surface at the 141-year-old city centre venue.

But the ground staff still have their work cut out with three teams – County, the Dragons and Newport RFC – all sharing the stadium.

And it’s clear that persistent heavy rain still has the potential to disrupt the fixture list, as it does at countless other lower-league grounds up and down the country.

Thankfully, County are now in a better position to weather such disappointments.

Two or three years ago, a postponement just 20 minutes before kick-off in a big pre-Christmas game would have been disastrous for the Exiles.

It is clearly far from ideal in 2018, with staffing and hospitality costs to consider as well as compensation for MK Dons’ travelling expenses.

The club was also hoping for a larger than average crowd as fans who attended Saturday’s game had the chance to jump the queue for tickets for the Leicester City FA Cup tie on January 6.

But the £315,000 that has been earned from the run to the FA Cup third-round certainly cushions the blow.

And it’s hugely encouraging to hear that the new Supporters’ Trust membership scheme has been backed so well by the fans.

Trust chairman Shaun Johnson tells the Argus today that contributions have risen from around £30,000 a year to nearly £70,000.

As more members upgrade their membership from the old £10-a-year model to a minimum of £5 per month, that figure should continue to climb.

Michael Flynn and his squad won’t be able to produce miracles in the cup competitions every year and it’s a great sign that the club is edging towards a more sustainable future.

“We’ve said publicly - at the supporters' meeting in October - that we’re trying to make the club as sustainable as we can,” said operational chairman Gavin Foxall.

“We’re doing a lot of things in the background with Trust membership to make it sustainable.

“A cup run always helps and is always welcomed, but the bottom line is that you can’t run a club on cup runs and player sales.

“So, while it is welcome from a financial perspective, we’re working hard and we’re grateful for all the support we’re receiving from Trust members and supporters to try to make it a sustainable club.

“Anything then that comes with a cup run is the icing on the cake and the cherry on top.”

The relative financial stability also means that the board will back Flynn as he attempts to strengthen the squad in January.

“We were already supporting him in that department anyway,” said Foxall.

“We’ve done a lot of work in trying to make the club sustainable and a lot of planning has gone into that.

“We had a board meeting a while back when we sat down with the manager and Lennie [Lawrence] and went through what they were looking at, so it’s done very much on a planned basis.

“Of course, the extra injection of cash helps that enormously.

“But Michael has done really well in terms of his recruitment.

“He’s always conscious of the financial stability of the club so he’ll be looking at targets that will come in and make a difference and fit in with the small squad that he’s got.

“He’s always said that a small squad works better for him and we’re here to support him in the January window.”

That news has been welcomed by winger Robbie Willmott, who believes the current board is a big improvement on previous regimes.

“It’s nice hearing that the board are going to back the gaffer in January,” said Willmott, who returned to Newport in 2017 after two years in non-league football.

“There’s been a few years where I’ve been here before and we’ve been in good positions in the league but everyone else in the league has strengthened and we haven’t.

“It’s such a change because when I was here the first time around it was just a total mess off the pitch.

“The players didn’t really know anyone off the pitch – we didn’t know who we could go and talk to.

“But we know everyone now. We know where we can go if we need anything.

“I think there’s a good relationship on and off the pitch with everyone who works here now, which makes a massive difference for us.”