PLAYMAKER Josh Sheehan will make his return from suspension for Newport County AFC against Grimsby tomorrow afternoon but the Exiles will be without Liam Shephard – despite boss Michael Flynn feeling the wing-back didn’t deserve to see red.

The 26-year-old has been a huge hit with his energy and influence down the right since heading to Rodney Parade after his release by Forest Green Rovers.

Shephard has played in 30 of 34 fixtures in all competitions but will miss the clash with Grimsby, Tuesday’s home game against Southend and next weekend’s trip to Port Vale.

That is after he was sent off in the 2-1 defeat to Harrogate last Saturday for a two-footed tackle; he didn’t make contact with Simon Power but referee Christopher Pollard deemed it was reckless.

South Wales Argus:

“I didn't think that it was a red but as a club we took advice from the head of referees,” said manager Flynn. “If they deemed it as a frivolous appeal then he could have got an extra game.

“They will go by the letter of the law and, depending on what angle you view, it would be hard to prove them wrong.

“On the other angle, no [it wasn't a red card]. It was frustrating, especially when you see a couple of elbows that our players received.”

Shephard was sent off when the score was 2-1, a third straight red in four League Two games.

Sheehan was dismissed for a reckless tackle in the goalless draw against Salford while captain Joss Labadie was punished in the opening stages of the loss at Oldham for a mild but petulant reaction to a challenge.

County are on an eight-game winless streak in League Two with Flynn demanding disclipline improves in a pivotal February.

South Wales Argus:

“It was a very frustrating month and in three out of four games we had red cards – I have never experienced that, even as a player,” said the boss “They were all avoidable as well, maybe Josh Sheehan's was unfortunate because he did take the ball, it was just how the tackle was perceived.

“The other two could have been prevented. It's very frustrating but the players know my thoughts and how they have to be in this day of age in terms of going in for challenges or their reactions.

“Hopefully we don't see any more of it, because until then we had a good disciplinary record.”

Labadie, Shephard and veteran forward Kevin Ellison are the only players that are not available to Flynn for the clash with the Mariners.

The 41-year-old, whose birthday is on the 23rd of this month, has been out since suffering a muscle strain tracking back in defence against Salford in mid-January.

“He is coming along fine, it was an unfortunate injury when he blocked the ball,” said Flynn.

“It's been frustrating for him but I am sure he will have something to say towards the end of the season.”

County haven’t won since beating Grimsby at Blundell Park on December 8, a run that has seen them share the spoils with promotion rivals Salford (twice), Cheltenham and Crawley and lose to Leyton Orient, Oldham (twice) and Harrogate.

“I can't put my finger on it, other than the pitch, red cards and mistakes,” said Flynn. “It's not like we have been played off the park but the Harrogate one was the first time that I thought we were way off.

“We want to get back on track ASAP because we are in a fantastic position. Yes, it could be better but I would have taken this.

“When we were right at the top I certainly wasn't getting carried away because things like this can happen, or we could have had a Covid outbreak.

“I never get carried away and I'm not too down now. We've shot ourselves in the foot for most of the games but last Saturday we didn't do the basics right.”

“I want to try and get the three points against Grimsby and it's going to be difficult,” he continued.

“The pitch will be poor, they have got new signings and a new manager. It’s not a given and this is where we will see the fighting spirit of every club in all the leagues.

“You will get some surprise results, I just hope that we are not on the back of any of them.”