MIDFIELDER Joss Labadie is adamant that promotion is the only aim for Newport County AFC as they prepare to kick off the 2019-2020 campaign at home to Mansfield Town on Saturday.

County are looking to build on last season’s near-miss when they were beaten in the League Two play-off final by Tranmere Rovers.

Labadie is convinced that they can continue the progress they have made since Michael Flynn took over as manager in 2017 and he sees no reason why they cannot secure a place in League One.

Asked about the aim for the season, Labadie’s answer was simple and succinct: “Promotion. Since the gaffer has come in, we’ve always improved – saved ourselves from relegation, successful season the next year and play-offs the next year.

“I think promotion has to be the aim this time around.

“There’s no reason why we can’t achieve that. We competed with the best teams in the league last season so it’s a natural progression for us.”

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County beat Mansfield on penalties in the play-off semi-final in May and Labadie is expecting a battle at Rodney Parade this Saturday.

“Mansfield are a fierce team, but so are we,” he told iFollowExiles. “They know what we’re about and we showed them that last season.

“It’ll be a good one to start the season off.

“You could say the play-off semi-finals don’t matter because it’s in the past now but we’re still hurting from the final and they’ll be hurting from the semi-finals.

“I’m sure it’ll be a full-blooded affair.”

The Exiles completed their on-pitch pre-season preparations with a 3-0 win at Hungerford Town at the weekend.

Labadie scored the first goal and, having also netted at Weston-super-Mare last week, he’s hoping to take that form into the league campaign.

“It was another goal for myself, which I’m happy with,” said the 28-year-old, who failed to score in 21 appearances last season having hit six goals in 2017-2018.

“I need to get more goals into my game this season which is something the manager has been onto me for. Hopefully I can get a few more in the season.

“This was the last fixture before Mansfield, and it was a really good runout for the boys,” he added.

“We all got 45 minutes, and everyone came away from it unscathed, so it was a really positive day for us.

“We’ve got competition for places now, which is always good and even the trialists who played all knew their jobs and played really well.

“It’s been very good this pre-season. The manager was very happy, he’s always said that he wouldn’t be too fussed on results as long as we gave it our all and put the work in.

“That’s exactly what we did and we’re really looking forward to facing Mansfield Town now. Hopefully we can hit the ground running.”

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