NICK Townsend knows from experience about the perils of looking too far ahead as Newport County AFC prepare for a “make or break” period of their bid for the play-offs.

The Exiles have put themselves right in the mix for the top seven thanks to a superb run since Christmas, taking 20 points from their last nine games.

They are down in 14th in a congested table, just two points behind seventh-placed Harrogate.

Goalkeeper Townsend is one of the experienced players able to guide the novices through a bid for the play-offs.

The West Midlander was a member of the squads that suffered Wembley anguish in 2019 and 2021 while he also experienced disappointment when the Exiles went from hunting automatic promotion in mid-March of 2022 to suffering a late collapse that saw them finish 11th.

County face tough tests in the coming weeks with their next seven opponents all currently above them in the table, with fifth-placed MK Dons first up on Saturday.

South Wales Argus: Newport County goalkeeper Nick TownsendNewport County goalkeeper Nick Townsend (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“We know that we are playing everyone around us and that it’s going to be hard, almost make or break,” said Townsend.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves even if we are two points off it, a few of us lads have been here before and we just has to take each game as it comes.”

Nonetheless, there is a feelgood factor in Newport thanks to the recent form, FA Cup run and Huw Jenkins’ takeover.

“We are a good group of lads and will battle for each other. There is a bit more of a buzz around the changing room,” said Townsend.

“At the start of the season we didn’t really know what was going on [due to summer exits, financial uncertainty and injuries] but now we are looking up.

“The lads have gelled now and we have shown what a good group we are, now we just have make sure we keep doing what we have been doing.”

Top scorer Will Evans was the hero on Saturday when his 19th league goal of the campaign earned the spoils against Gillingham, yet Townsend ensured he was the match-winner with a wonderful save to deny Tim Dieng in the 78th minute.

South Wales Argus: Nick Townsend in action for County against Manchester UnitedNick Townsend in action for County against Manchester United (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“You have to be switched on all the time,” he said after his 150th appearance for the club. “As a goalkeeper it’s more of a mental game than a physical one and you need to stay alert.

“If the lads are making sure that I only have one real save every game then I will take it.”

The Exiles have kept four clean sheets in their seven League Two fixtures in the calendar year after shutting out Doncaster, Wrexham, Walsall and the Gills.

Only one side in the Football League, Championship Leeds (one), have conceded fewer than their five goals.

County will look to keep that mean streak going in Milton Keynes despite the loss of captain and centre-back Ryan Delaney to a season-ending knee injury.

“Ryan is a huge loss,” admitted Townsend. “He has come on leaps and bounds, he has really settled us down.

“But the lads in front of me have been superb, they are battling for everything and they are the main reason that we have been picking up so many clean sheets in recent months.”