IT was a warning that few in amber needed.

Newport County AFC suffered the first of their three League Two postponements on the evening of 29 when Exeter City were the scheduled opponents.

Torrential rain did for the clash with the Grecians, who had made the relatively short trip to Rodney Parade in a division featuring 14 teams from the midlands northwards.

Exeter manager Matt Taylor did an interview next to the surface which was "a bit of a swamp" and declared, with sympathy rather than as a barb, that the free-flowing Exiles would have their work cut out for the rest of 2020/21.

"That pitch is going to cause serious problems now that they are playing rugby on it as well," said the former defender, who played for the Exiles in 2015.

"Newport have played a fantastic brand of football so far this season, it will really be a shame to see them having to change, but that pitch will cause them a few problems I am afraid."

County are enduring a sticky spell but before their current eight-game winless streak they had set the pace thanks to an expansive approach.

With Matty Dolan at the heart of the defence, Josh Sheehan sitting deep to dictate play and Scott Twine linking between midfield and attack, the spine of the team thrived with the ball on the deck.

County aren't daft, they know that the second half of the campaign cannot follow the same blueprint.

Half-time work on the Rodney Parade pitch

Half-time work on the Rodney Parade pitch

Their pitch will at times be a pudding and it's nobody's fault.

A new surface was meant to be laid last summer before the coronavirus pandemic and the delay means the Dragons and more importantly County are now playing on a surface past its shelf life.

There is only so much that the hard-working ground staff can do; if the weather is dry (as it was before the Brighton FA Cup tie) then it's not too bad but if it rains in the days before a fixture then it's challenging to say the least.

Look at the fixture list and alarm bells start ringing – Rodney Parade faces a hectic February with County playing five of seven games on home soil.

Going by the Met Office stats for Usk climate station between 1981 and 2010, February is the coldest month but has less rainfall than October, November, December and January.

But this is south Wales – there are still an average of 10.5 rain days.

On two occasions - Grimsby on Saturday and Forest Green on Saturday, February 20 - the Dragons will have played PRO14 fixtures the night before, scrums and driving lineouts against Connacht and Leinster.

Added to this is a manic schedule that means County have 22 games to fit in before their final afternoon trip to Southend in 13 weeks.

South Wales Argus:

The Exiles need to adapt and we saw that against Salford, a dour game where both promotion hopefuls adopted a no-risk approach.

The mantra used at Rodney Parade by Newport RFC boss Ty Morris and Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan was appropriate – play in the right areas with centre-backs not shy of a battle for territory.

County, according to whoscored.com, made a total of 315 passes with 96 of them long and 201 short.

Compare that to the 2-1 win against Barrow in September they made 430 passes with 323 of them short. In October 394 passes were made against Colchester, 67 of them long and 302 short.

Against Harrogate in November, it was a total of 543 with 441 of them short. Versus Morecambe at the start of December it was 534 passes with 429 of them short.

But the pitch is now on the turn and it's not just the passing of Sheehan that will be affected, it's the energy of wing-backs Liam Shephard and Ryan Haynes.

Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday football is tough at the best of times, let alone in heavy conditions. Run on a boggy park rather than a path and you feel the difference.

The Parade pitch will be more draining and while Flynn has frequently freshened up his forward line (Padraig Amond in particular could argue that he has been hindered by the frequent rotation), it has been same again on the flanks.

Haynes' form seems to have dipped a little; down to fatigue or lack of competition?

There will be change down the right in the coming weeks courtesy of Shephard's daft dismissal for a reckless tackle in Harrogate.

Whether it's Ashley Baker or Aaron Lewis who replaces him against Grimsby, Southend and Port Vale, it's a chance to give Flynn a much-needed headache for the rest of the season.

February is vital to the Exiles' promotion hopes and they need to play it smart on their home soil, and that doesn't just mean defenders launching the ball when in perilous positions.

County need to use their squad and share the workload if they are to be right back in the mix when they flick the calendar over the march.