THE fat lady is clearing her throat as the season reaches a climax and we’re approaching ‘make-or-break’ territory for Newport County AFC in their pursuit of a place in the League Two play-offs.

It’s a sign of the progress made by Michael Flynn’s men over the last two years that they are still in the hunt for a top-seven spot as we enter the final month of the campaign.

When Flynn took over from Graham Westley two years ago, the Exiles looked doomed to return to non-league football and would have done so but for Mark O’Brien’s legendary late winner on the final day in 2017.

After that never-to-be-forgotten Great Escape, last year’s play-off push floundered in February following a remarkable run to the FA Cup fourth round.

But this season, after more heroics in the world’s oldest cup competition, County are still in with a shout of the play-offs with seven games to play.

Tonight’s home clash with promotion rivals Swindon Town has the look of a must-win game if the Exiles are to keep that dream alive.

But, whatever the result tonight, it’s clear that the next four weeks will have a big impact on Flynn’s plans for the summer.

Top scorer Padraig Amond and cup star Robbie Willmott have both signed new deals since the turn of the year to keep them at the club until 2020 and 2021 respectively.

But 12 members of the squad are out of contract at the end of this season and, if they fall just short of the play-offs, County might find it hard to keep hold of some of their best players.

It’s been a remarkable journey for the likes of goalkeeper Joe Day, defenders Dan Butler, Mickey Demetriou and O’Brien, and midfielder Joss Labadie over the past few years but they all face big decisions this summer.

There are bound to be suitors for Day, Butler, Demetriou and Labadie in particular and they may well be tempted to move on.

South Wales Argus:

Labadie (above) would probably have done so already had he not suffered an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury in March 2018.

Butler only agreed to a one-year contract extension last summer and clubs from League One and even the Championship are believed to be looking at the 24-year-old, who has developed into one of the best left-backs in the fourth tier.

Day, who was deservedly voted into the League Two team of the season, and Demetriou both have young families and are settled in the area.

But at 28 and 29 respectively, this summer may well represent their last chance to play at a higher level.

“I’ve spoken to a handful of players,” said Flynn when he was asked about new contracts before Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Tranmere Rovers.

“Some I’ll make decisions on later on and others will be released, which is part and parcel of the game.

“But these things take time. We don’t just say ‘there’s the deal, sign’ and it’s done.

“I wish it was that easy, but they’ve got families, they’ve got ambitions.

“And some of them, who you were thinking of keeping, have lost form so things change.”

Tyler Forbes looks certain to leave after being sent on loan to Salford City for the rest of the campaign and, as things stand, Will Randall has not had much of a chance to show what he can do since his surprise signing last month.

Matty Dolan and Josh Sheehan will hope that they have done enough to earn new deals, and Flynn must decide whether to keep hold of veterans David Pipe and Andrew Crofts.

Asked recently if 35-year-old right-back Pipe had another season in him, the manager said: “I don’t know. I’ve spoken to him.

“One thing with David Pipe is that he’s always fit so it means it’s not a wasted wage. Whether or not that’s enough, I don’t know.”

South Wales Argus:

Crofts (above) has returned to the bench for the last two games after a deeply frustrating campaign ruined by injury.

But the 34-year-old former Wales international probably needs a storming end to the season to see his time in Newport extended.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 19-year-old Momodou Touray, who will also be a free agent in June unless he signs a new deal.

After an impressive season on loan at Barry Town United, he could return for the Exiles’ final two games of the season and he’ll be hoping he gets the chance to show that he has a future at Rodney Parade.

Everyone at the club still has plenty to play for between now and May 4.

Read more: Flynn on contract talks and £32,000 paid to agents

Read more: Barry boss impressed by Exiles teen Touray