TEN games into last season opponents knew what was coming with Newport County AFC, stopping it was another matter.

The Exiles started 2020/21 impressively and the starters were pretty predictable in a 3-5-2 formation.

It would be Brandon Cooper, Matty Dolan and Mickey Demetriou at the back with Liam Shephard and Ryan Haynes down the flanks.

Josh Sheehan would sit in front of defence and dictate play with Joss Labadie and Scott Twine joining him in midfield.

The only area of rotation was up front, where manager Michael Flynn didn’t settle on a partner for Tristan Abrahams.

County were pretty predictable and reaped the rewards with a superb first half of the campaign that probably should have led to promotion, and probably would have were it not for loanees Cooper and Twine being recalled by Swansea and Swindon respectively.

Even without the duo, it could have been League One football for the Exiles were it not for referee Bobby Madley’s performance in the play-off final.

South Wales Argus: DESPAIR: Michael Flynn after County's loss to MorecambeDESPAIR: Michael Flynn after County's loss to Morecambe

Instead it was Morecambe that headed up with Cheltenham, Cambridge and Bolton, leading to a summer rebuild for Flynn.

County signed 15 players and, for a variety of reasons, are yet to settle on their line-up or shape for the season.

Flynn has a policy of not giving away team news or elaborating on injuries in a bid to keep opponents guessing.

Throw coronavirus in the mix and there has to be an element of guesswork when it comes to the reasons for changes, and there have been a lot of them so far.

From Oldham on opening weekend to Mansfield there were four changes.

From Mansfield to Tranmere there were two.

From Tranmere to Salford there was just one.

From Salford to Leyton Orient there were four.

From Orient to Harrogate there was one.

From Harrogate to Northampton there were four.

From Northampton to Walsall there was an understandable eight.

From Walsall to Barrow there were four.

County have made 28 changes ahead of their tenth league fixture and have just one ever-present – right-back Cameron Norman.

At the same point last season they had totted up 10 changes and goalkeeper Nick Townsend, Demetriou, Haynes, Shephard, Sheehan and Twine were ever-presents.

South Wales Argus: BLOW: Captain Matty Dolan suffered a calf injury on opening dayBLOW: Captain Matty Dolan suffered a calf injury on opening day

County would love to already have a solid spine but haven’t been as fortunate with injury in the early stages of 2021/22 with Joe Day, Dolan, Demetriou, Scot Bennett – four shoo-ins – having suffered blows while Ed Upson, who made an encouraging start until a poor display at Barrow, missed a game through illness.

I’d argue that the Exiles’ squad is way too big and that having 23 senior players (a figure that doesn’t include Aneurin Livermore, development players Jordan Greenidge and Louis Hall or the injured Courtney Senior) makes it hard to keep everyone happy and settle into a rhythm.

Because that is what County need to do if they are to gel and climb the table after what has still been a steady start to the campaign.

The poor performances in defeat to Salford, Northampton and Barrow stick in the mind but 11 points from nine games is not a disaster.

Last season County bagged three points from the respective fixtures against the eight teams that have remained in League Two.

Like many others, they will be taking inspiration from Bolton, who are currently just outside the League One play-offs when Trotters fans were slightly concerned about League Two relegation at this stage last season.

The Wanderers made an awful start to the campaign under new boss Ian Evatt, heading into November with just nine points, before finishing majestically to claim third.

“At times it probably benefited us to not have the fans [in grounds] because it gave us time to get our act together,” said the former Barrow boss, whose team took 51 of 66 possible points in the run-in.

County also need to get their act together if they are to be contenders in the top half rather than being one of the many clubs to suffer from a play-offs hangover.

A settled side, style and formation is key to finding the necessary consistency.