NEWPORT County AFC attempt to raise eyebrows when they host record-chasing Stockport in League Two on Saturday.

The Exiles are underdogs despite being on home soil at Rodney Parade because of the Hatters’ remarkable run of 12 straight league wins.

The pace-setters moved level with Luton’s class of 2002 by beating Colchester last weekend and their travelling contingent will hope to toast number 13 to become the fourth tier’s outright record holders.

County will aim to play the role of party poopers and certainly won’t go down without a fight as they hunt precious points towards the bottom of the table.

Bottom club Sutton are currently seven back while both Forest Green and Tranmere are five behind, with the Gloucestershire club having a game in hand on all the strugglers.

Here are some talking points ahead of the Exiles’ bid to upset the odds…

South Wales Argus: INFLUENTIAL: County defender Matt Baker is back from Wales Under-21 dutyINFLUENTIAL: County defender Matt Baker is back from Wales Under-21 duty (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Matt Baker returned to the international fold when playing the full 90 minutes against both Iceland, last Thursday, and Denmark, on Monday, for Wales Under-21s at Rodney Parade.

With James Clarke not yet fully fit after a groin injury, County switched versatile Shane McLoughlin to the right of three centre-backs against Bristol Rovers in the EFL Trophy and then Mansfield in League Two.

Baker’s return should allow McLoughlin to go on the move again, either to right wing-back or midfield.

The Wales Under-21s prospect arrived for a second spell in Newport with a hamstring injury suffered at Stoke but is starting to build up a head of steam after returning to action in October.

South Wales Argus: OPTION: James Clarke has returned from injury for Newport CountyOPTION: James Clarke has returned from injury for Newport County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Clarke and striker Seb Palmer-Houlden made welcome returns against Rovers and the Stags, with the Field Mill clash seeing the pair get 35 and 40 minutes respectively.

Coughlan cannot afford to rush the duo and there will surely be a plan mapped out for how to treat Stockport on Saturday, Morecambe away (including a long coach trip) on Tuesday then Barnet on Saturday.

The availability of Baker means there is no desperation to bring Clarke into the defence while there must be the temptation to give Palmer-Houlden another sizeable substitute outing, even if his aggressive pressing would be welcome against the leaders.

Coughlan will also hope that teenage forward Kiban Rai can add to his attacking options after missing three games with a niggle while the calming influence of Aaron Wildig, who has been struggling with a back spasm that has affecting his hamstrings, has been missed in midfield.

South Wales Argus: THREAT: Kyle Wootton has returned from injury impressively for StockportTHREAT: Kyle Wootton has returned from injury impressively for Stockport (Image: Press Association)


Stockport suffered a blow when influential Aston Villa forward Louie Barry, who County have gone up against frequently in the past when he was at Ipswich, Swindon, MK Dons and Salford, suffered a hamstring injury that could sideline him until the end of February.

Barry had scored nine goals in 17 appearances, including a scoring run of seven league games on the spin, but the Hatters haven't missed a beat and others have stepped up to the plate.

They possess real dangermen in 11-goal Isaac Olaofe and fit-again Kyle Wootton, who has scored a double in the April win over County at Edgeley Park.

Stockport are efficient as they are the EFL's top scorers with 39 but they are ranked 10th for shots per game (13.4), climbing to fourth for shots on target per game (4.9).

A trend of County's fixtures of late has been their failure to work the goalkeeper.

The Exiles are 12th in League Two for goals (26), 13th for shots per game (12.6) and drop to 18th for shots on target per game (4).

County, who do create plenty, simply have to take the chances that come their way whoever is up front out of Omar Bogle, Will Evans and Palmer-Houlden.

League Two fixtures: AFC Wimbledon v Notts County, Bradford v Accrington, Colchester v Barrow, Crawley v Harrogate, Crewe v Doncaster, Grimsby v Sutton, Newport v Stockport, Salford v MK Dons, Swindon v Mansfield, Tranmere v Gillingham, Walsall v Forest Green, Wrexham v Morecambe.