NEWPORT County AFC are relieved that former Rodney Parade favourite Jamille Matt won't get a chance to make it a hat-trick when the play-offs get under way on Tuesday.

The Exiles' reward for finishing fifth in League Two is a semi-final against Forest Green Rovers, who had the better of the meetings in the regular season.

County looked set for a win at the New Lane in December only for Matt to come up with a late leveller.

Rovers then moved a point behind then leaders Cambridge when they triumphed 2-0 at a boggy Rodney Parade in February

Josh Davidson scored the opener and then Matt won and scored a penalty on his return to Newport.

INFLUENTIAL: Jamille Matt had a superb first season at Forest Green

INFLUENTIAL: Jamille Matt had a superb first season at Forest Green

The 31-year-old has had a sensational season since signing for Forest Green after the coronavirus pandemic meant the Exiles could not offer him a new contract.

While Scot Bennett remained a free agent and signed fresh terms at County when their financial situation became clearer, Matt was snapped up by Rovers.

He has provided them with a physical presence up front while also scoring 16 goals to be nominated for League Two player of the season. Perhaps Michael Flynn's men would already be a League One side if he had remained.

However, Matt's season was ended when he suffered a horror hand injury in the opening exchanges of Rovers' fixture against Bolton.

AGONY: Forest Green Rovers Jamille Matt looks on pain after his hand injury against Bolton

AGONY: Forest Green Rovers' Jamille Matt looks on pain after his hand injury against Bolton

Forest Green suffered without him leading the line and slipped out of the play-off spots until Salford slipped up on penultimate weekend.

Rovers remain a huge threat but there is relief in the Newport ranks that their former teammate won't be up against them.

"They are a good footballing team but we know that without Jamille they are a different side," said goalkeeper King after County's 1-1 draw at Southend that secured fifth place.

"We're going to have to be prepared for that and all our focus is switched on to them now. I'm sure we'll be well equipped when it comes to the first leg against them."

King was recalled to the starting line-up for County's run-in and repaid the faith shown in him by Michael Flynn in Southend.

With the score at 1-1, the Wales squad goalkeeper dived to his left to keep out Matt Rush's penalty and ensure that the Exiles weren't left needing other scores to go their way.

King was quick to thank captain Joss Labadie, the West Midlands-based midfielder who occasionally stays with him.

"Unfortunately for their penalty taker we've got Joss Labadie on our side who manages to guess penalties and directions every single day," he said.

"I live with him and we watch a lot of penalties, so he talks me through what he sees and the run-ups. He's seen a lot of football in his time, so their lad is unfortunate that we've got Joss on our side.

"He's the master penalty saver!"

King was joint-hero at Roots Hall after Mickey Demetriou headed home the equaliser early in the second half.

The centre-back has finished the season superbly to challenge Matty Dolan for the club's player of the year honour.

"Mickey has come up with some really vital moments over the last four of five weeks, he has played out of his skin," said King.

"We need three more big performances from him and we will be right where we want to be."