NUMBER 1 Tom King is determined to be the first name on the teamsheet in Newport County AFC’s promotion push after admitting that letting his standards slip led to the loss of his starting spot.

The Exiles welcome Salford City to Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon and manager Michael Flynn has a tough decision to make in goal.

King is yet to start a game in League Two but got the nod ahead of Nick Townsend for Sunday’s agonising FA Cup loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.

The 25-year-old produced a stunning performance as the Premier League side were taken to penalties, mixing solidity with the spectacular when denying Andi Zeqiri and Lewis Dunk.

King, squad number 1, needed something special to put the pressure on Townsend, squad number 30, and did just that.

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“It’s been extremely hard mentally, credit to [goalkeeping coach] Jim Hollman because he has kept me going,” said King, who had previously started in a pair of EFL Trophy games, the Carabao Cup fixture with Cambridge and the FA Cup win over Salford.

“What I have found is a new passion for my gym work and you have to be ready to take your chance.

“I was on the phone to a friend the other day and was a little bit worried, saying it might take me a couple of games to get into it, and he assured me that football doesn’t allow you those chances.

“It's been tough. Anyone that tells you being a sub goalie is easy is lying. I am just so happy that I could put all of my hard work out onto the pitch.”

King has been through 24 warm-ups before heading to the stands to watch Townsend in action.

The door was opened at Leyton Orient when the starter, who had made a rare error for an own goal, suffered a knee injury.

Townsend has been superb – his display in the draw at Salford was every bit as good as King’s versus Brighton – to make County’s bid for League One a hard one for the usually-unused substitute.

South Wales Argus: IMPRESSIVE: Nick Townsend is put through his paces by Jim HollmanIMPRESSIVE: Nick Townsend is put through his paces by Jim Hollman

"I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm not going to stand here and wax lyrical about it's been good and stuff like that,” said King, who received his second Wales call-up in November despite being inactive at Newport.

"Obviously it's been tough for me and I've had to wait for my chance, but hopefully now I've given myself the best chance of retaining my place and seeing it through now.

"There are a few cliche sayings, like 'when you're number two train like you're chasing' and I like that, I like the chase.

"Nick's been unbelievable, he's played so well throughout the season that I've had to raise my game.

“Even by my own admission, and the lads will tell you maybe I took it a little bit too easy which is a negative on me, I can't do that and I'm learning my lessons. I'm only 25.

"I'm still a young kid basically and I'm learning my trade and that's one thing I'll take with me, that I can't take my foot off the gas for one second.

“I have to be on my game every day; I have to show everything and can’t take it easy. It can’t just be the game against Brighton, I have to train well this week.

“I have to keep giving the best version of myself every single time to try and knock him off his place.

“Nick's been unbelievable and he was unlucky with his injury but now I'm in and I'll be looking to stay in."

And Flynn’s decision for Saturday won’t lead to a division in the camp.

“I feel we have a proper bond between the three of us,” said King, including Hollman. “We will keep pushing each other, there is one common goal and that is to get into League One.”

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County’s run in the Carabao Cup was ended by Newcastle on penalties and they suffered the same fate on Sunday despite King saving from Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard.

The stopper believes the nature of the loss will give them belief to keep pushing for automatic promotion, with leaders Carlisle just a point ahead after playing a game more.

"We've taken two Premier League sides to penalties so we're full of confidence," he said.

"We'll be going into every game feeling like we can beat anyone, that's what we've done all season. We don't fear anyone, we've got to be confident.

"We've got to respect opponents but not respect them too much and give them the chance to play, we've got to be high intensity, nothing changes for us.

“To go toe-to-toe with two Premier League sides will give us nothing but confidence.”

And if King can be a leading figure in the bid for promotion then he could be rewarded in the summer in the delayed Euros.

The goalkeeper received his first Wales call-up in November, 2019 and was back last year to help win Nations League promotion, despite playing second fiddle to Townsend at County.

“It came as a surprise even to me, I was told before the Bradford game [in October],” said King, who is yet to be capped.

“To be not playing in games but still be involved is a big pat on the back for me, I must have shown them something that they liked last year.

“It's a driving force. To have that carrot there in front of you, to be involved in the European Championships in the summer would be an absolute dream.

"But that's not in my thoughts at the moment. My thoughts now are maintaining this position that we've got in the league and just pushing on and secure this first and then I'll worry about that when it comes to it."