NEWPORT County AFC will play it safe with fit-again Offrande Zanzala against Mansfield after the striker’s impressive return to the starting line-up.

The 27-year-old scored a double in the 4-1 win against Harrogate on Tuesday night in his first start since February 2023.

Zanzala came on for the final half hour at MK Dons last Saturday and manager Graham Coughlan is mindful of the forward’s workload.

“I am delighted and chuffed for him that he has come back in but we can’t expect Oz to be 100 per cent fit, prepared and ready for starting week in, week out. It’s a big, big ask,” said the boss.

“I imagine that he was pretty sore because he put in a hell of a shift on Saturday at MK Dons and on Tuesday night. It’s great to see him coming back.”

County currently have four senior strike options in top scorer Will Evans, exciting Bristol City prospect Seb Palmer-Houlden, Zanzala and January signing Luke Jephcott.

Teenager Kiban Rai is also in the mix while experienced frontman Omar Bogle, the club’s top scorer last season, is nearing a return from a muscle injury.

County will manage the minutes for Palmer-Houlden, who is in his first season of senior football, as well as Zanzala and Jephcott, who arrived on a free transfer after being a fringe figure at St Johnstone.

South Wales Argus: OPTION: County signed Luke Jephcott in JanuaryOPTION: County signed Luke Jephcott in January (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“They will need looking after and I can’t expect to just keep chucking them in, especially Oz and ‘Jephers’, who is not really up to full speed,” said Coughlan.

“It goes back to not having a pre-season under your belt, it’s so important and helps you for the rest of the season.”

County are hopeful that ex-Mansfield midfielder Harry Charsley will be fit to face his former team after missing the games in Milton Keynes and Harrogate with a hip injury suffered against Gillingham.

Defenders Josh Seberry and Ryan Delaney are on County's long-term injury list, striker Omar Bogle is closing in on a return and right-back Shane McLoughlin is having a calf injury assessed.

Central defender Declan Drysdale was an unused substitute in Harrogate on his return from an injury suffered in November.