NEWPORT County AFC have been trying to fight their footballing instincts when preparing for a key week against League Two promotion rivals at Rodney Parade.

The Exiles host seventh-placed Exeter City this evening and second-placed Forest Green Rovers head to Newport on Saturday.

With the Dragons hosting Leinster on Friday evening, the struggling surface is going to be even more challenging this weekend.

But first up is a date with the Grecians on a pitch that was frozen on Friday, leading to a rugby clash with Edinburgh being postponed, and has had to cope with rain over the past few days.

County started the season playing attractive football but have to adopt a different approach now that their home pitch has deteriorated.

Dragons boss Dean Ryan has spoken about the challenges of training on an artificial surface and then playing on a mixture of mud and sand.

The Exiles share that problem when preparing at Spytty Park, which is currently in good condition, and the Football Association of Wales' Dragon Park.

TESTING: The Rodney Parade pitch makes it tough for Josh Sheehan to thrive on the deck

TESTING: The Rodney Parade pitch makes it tough for Josh Sheehan to thrive on the deck

"It's hard because they are footballers, when they have time on the ball their natural instinct is to get it down and pass," said manager Michael Flynn.

"We did a session before the Grimsby game where, and it's not something I enjoy, we had to show them how it was going to be. Some of them hadn't played at Rodney Parade [in its current condition] before and it was a rude awakening."

County are on a poor run of form that has seen them take just seven points from a possible 30 yet they remain right in the promotion mix with their next two opponents.

Exeter, beaten by Northampton in the 2020 play-off final, are seventh after reacting to a drop in form in December and the start of January.

Forest Green are second and since drawing with Newport at the New Lawn on December 1 have taken 19 from a possible 33.

"They are two tough teams that are slightly different in the way that they play," said Flynn. "Before a ball was kicked in the season they were two teams that you'd think will be there or thereabouts.

"Matty Taylor and Mark Cooper both do good jobs – there was doom and gloom around those two a few weeks ago but they have proved that as soon as you get a little bit of confidence back you can go on a little run."

Exeter head to Newport after their trip to Oldham was postponed while County's journey to Staffordshire has been pushed back to Tuesday, March 16 because of a frozen Port Vale pitch.

"Like Southend were fresh against us last Tuesday [after a postponed game], hopefully we will be fresh against Exeter," said Flynn.. "It doesn't always work like that but we have to turn this into a positive."

The postponement means that right wing-back Liam Shephard misses the Exeter game while serving the last game of his three-match suspension for a red card at Harrogate.

Scot Bennett misses out against Exeter and Forest Green following his dismissal against Grimsby.

Captain Joss Labadie returns from his three-match suspension after being sent off at Oldham. County failed to get that ban reduced after the Football Association dismissed their claim of excessive punishment.

Exeter will be without midfielder Robbie Willmott, who moved to Devon on loan from Newport on deadline day.