BALL-PLAYING defender Matty Dolan is happy to put his boot through it in Newport County AFC’s quest for clean sheets.

The Exiles welcome Walsall to Rodney Parade in League Two this afternoon with the aim of building on their opening day 1-1 draw at Sutton.

Dolan will enjoy a reunion with Saddlers boss Michael Flynn, the man who shifted him from midfield to the heart of defence.

That move was to make the most of his cultured left peg with the 29-year-old and Josh Sheehan key figures as County got the ball on the deck in the 2020/21 campaign that ended in Wembley anguish.

Manager James Rowberry built on that style last season but was quick to hail his side’s edge against a physical Sutton side last weekend.

Dolan still wants to pick a pass and work the ball into the feet of the midfielders but nor is he shy on the direct approach.

South Wales Argus: Matty DolanMatty Dolan

“I am a ball-playing defender and it's probably my strongest attribute when I play there, but ultimately I need to take learnings from the likes of ‘OB’,” said the captain, referring to his former teammate turned coach Mark O’Brien.

“I can watch what Mickey [Demetriou] does and looked at what Brandon Cooper did when he had a spell here, because he was very good at both sides of the game.

“I need to develop that but the first season I popped back into defence we had one of our best clean sheet records. We need to learn as a team how to get clean sheets and the manager is working tirelessly on that.

“Cameron Norman probably won every header he contested at Sutton, Mickey is exceptional in the air and Declan Drysdale is a good looking lad but sticks his head in.

“We have that side of the game, which is vital at this level. If you don't win your duels then all the pretty stuff you want to do is irrelevant.”

Having Sutton first up was a good test of County’s battling qualities with Dolan content that a side featuring six debutants left with a hard-earned point.

“It was a brilliant test for a squad coming together,” he said. “I am sure Sutton this season will be very good at what they do and lesser teams may crumble.

“We stood up to it well and anyone affiliated with Newport who watched that will be excited.

“Every team will play a different style and it's down to us to know how to deal with that, whether it's longer balls or intricate play through the middle.”

County now turn their attention to Walsall and the bid to end a run of five home defeats that ended their promotion challenge.

“We are all aware of that but it’s a new season and we have new targets,” said Dolan. “It’s something that you learn, improve and move forward from.”