LIAM Shephard says staying at Newport County AFC will be a “no-brainer” – as long as the Exiles are successful in their bid for promotion.

The 26-year-old has been a star performer since heading to Rodney Parade from Forest Green Rovers last summer with his energy and creativity down the right.

Shephard’s form was pivotal in the Exiles setting the pace in League Two in the first half of the season and they remain in the mix for promotion despite a poor run of form that has seen them slide to fifth in the table.

READ MORE: Shephard tipped to push for Wales call-up

The defender signed on a one-year contract after being released by Rovers and being “messed about” by other clubs.

There is little doubt that Shephard has the ability to play at a higher level, and he hopes it can be with Newport.

"I am open to a contract, at the end of the day it's about securing your family and making sure you are able to put food on the table,” he said.

"I have spoken to the gaffer about it and we said that we would get the transfer window out of the way and go from there.

"I want to focus on the push for promotion and if we get promoted then it's a no-brainer to stay. It doesn't depend on that but it has to be right for both parties.”

OFF! Liam Shephard was shown red at Harrogate

OFF! Liam Shephard was shown red at Harrogate

Shephard has been badly missed while serving a three-match suspension for being sent off in the loss at Harrogate.

He was dismissed for a reckless two-footed tackle on Simon Power, which led to referee Christopher Pollard showing red.

"I thought that if we'd appealed then we could have won it because I pretty much injured the ball and not the player,” said Shephard.

"I guess from the rules if you leave the ground then it is deemed to be dangerous. The games gone a bit soft, back in the day that would have been a great challenge!"

His return is timely with County entertaining his former side Forest Green at Rodney Parade on Sunday (kick-off 1pm).

Shephard made 67 appearances for the Gloucestershire side but was surprised to not be offered a fresh contract last summer. Revenge is an added bonus but not prime motivation this weekend.

“It's always nice to prove a little point but if I focus on that too much then it could affect my game,” said the Swansea City academy graduate.

“I enjoyed my time there and was a bit shocked to be released, but that's part of football. I was told two things, one that it was down to money and the Covid situation and the other was not being available as much last season.”

CREATIVE: Liam Shephard

CREATIVE: Liam Shephard

Shephard has largely been injury-free this season and, with 28 games played and 19 left, will hope to fall short of his target of hitting a half-century by helping the Exiles to automatic promotion rather than a play-offs berth.

"We need a bit of luck. I am hoping that we can get one or two wins in a row and that will spark the fire again,” he said.

Nor will he be using the challenging Rodney Parade pitch as an excuse for a slide down the table.

“We can't always blame the pitch. You've got to accept it and find a way to win on it,” he said.

“You have to change your game and adapt. We need to make it our pitch where we know that we are going to win.

“If you've ever run on a beach, the sand takes the energy out of your legs really quickly. It's the same on this pitch.

“I have found myself being more clever with my runs, trying to time them better to get in position before the ball came. I am thinking more on my feet.”

County will hope he stays on his feet to avoid another suspension – Shephard’s form will be key to staying in the promotion race.