GRAHAM Coughlan has demanded his Newport County AFC leaders step up to respond to a League Two shocker when they take on Harrogate on Tuesday evening.

The Exiles travel to Yorkshire after being given a 3-0 hammering at fifth-placed Milton Keynes Dons, who could and should have scored more.

County have lost just twice since Christmas and they responded to defeat to Notts County a fortnight ago with a win against Gillingham.

They will attempt to repeat the trick when they lock horns with the Sulphurites, who are also in the mix for the play-offs.

“I want a performance and people, the leaders, to step up to the plate. Everything and anything you could mention in football was missing in Milton Keynes,” said Coughlan.

“That’s unusual and not like us but they are professional footballers and I am pretty sure that they will bounce back and atone for that performance.

“I am hurting because that wasn’t like us and I feel for the 500 fans that travelled on Saturday because they deserve better.

South Wales Argus: FRUSTRATED: County boss Graham Coughlan at MK DonsFRUSTRATED: County boss Graham Coughlan at MK Dons (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“This group has a bit of credit in the bank but I can’t have too many more of those performances because I didn’t enjoy watching my team, and I normally enjoy watching them.

“It was a non-show, we didn’t turn up, made too many mistakes and didn’t lay a glove on them. The minimum that you do is tackle, smash into somebody and get the team going. You win your battles and duels, that’s the minimum.”

County face a key week if they are to stay in the mix for the top seven with the trip to Harrogate followed by Saturday’s meeting with leaders Mansfield at Rodney Parade.

Influential right-back Shane McLoughlin was on crutches on Saturday after an injury to his lower left leg that forced his early withdrawal while midfielder Harry Charsley is a major doubt with a hip problem.

Coughlan could tinker with his team for Harrogate after the scoreline in Milton Keynes allowed him to give action to defender Kyle Jameson and forwards Luke Jephcott and Offrande Zanzala as they work towards full fitness.

“I said to them at half-time that I would have made 10 or 11 changes if I could,” said the manager. “I can only make a certain amount [of changes for Harrogate] because we have only go so many players.

“We got match minutes into them to put themselves up for selection for Tuesday and going forward.”

County won 4-0 on their last trip to Harrogate when James Rowberry was in charge in August, 2022.

Omar Bogle scored a double, Kayne Ramsay put into his own net and on-loan Thierry Nevers struck what turned out to be his only goal for the club.