NEWPORT County AFC hope that tenacious teenager Lewis Payne can fill the void as they brace themselves for a big blow in their bid for the League Two play-offs.

The Exiles will be without influential right-back Shane McLoughlin against leaders Mansfield at Rodney Parade this afternoon.

The Irishman suffered a calf tendon injury at Milton Keynes Dons last weekend and is waiting for the opinion of a specialist, with manager Graham Coughlan is fearing the worst.

“I haven’t been given a timeframe yet and we are hoping he can be back in the next couple of weeks and that it’s minor one,” said the boss.

“But there is never anything minor here, it’s always major and every player that has been out for us this season it has been months rather than weeks.

“I am bracing myself for bad news and longevity with Shane’s injury, anything other than that will be a bonus.”

McLoughlin had played in 42 of County’s 44 games and missed his first League Two game of the campaign at Harrogate on Tuesday.

South Wales Argus: PROMISING: Southampton loanee Lewis Payne in action for Newport CountyPROMISING: Southampton loanee Lewis Payne in action for Newport County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Payne got the nod down the right in the superb 4-1 win in Yorkshire and is likely to start again versus the Stags today.

The 19-year-old Southampton loanee has enjoyed his first proper taste of senior football with 34 appearances, 20 of them starts.

“Lewis has been brilliant and has had so much game that he will go back to Southampton having learnt loads,” said Coughlan.

“Southampton play in a back four but we have asked him to play higher up the pitch as a wing-back.

“He is tenacious, a decent ball carrier, gets forward and puts balls into the box. He is resilient and is a feisty character as well.

“Lewis has quality on the ball but just needs to work on the other side of his game such as recovery runs and getting back in.

“Hopefully he has learnt a lot doing that this year because he will have played in possession-based teams at Southampton, so with the ball was never going to be an issue.

“Defensively was the side he needed to learn and he has picked that up, while he is starting to get on the same line as his opposite wing-back to creep in at the back stick, like the goal at Barnet.

“His education has been brilliant, his game time has been unbelievable and he is enjoying his time at the club with the coaching, players and the vibes and energy from the stands.

“It’s a brilliant experience and one that he needed at this stage of his career.”

Coughlan also has academy graduate Harrison Bright, who returned from a loan at Cymru Premier Barry Town United in January and came off the bench in midweek, as an option while centre-back/midfielder Matt Baker has occasionally shifted to the right in games.

County are 10th in the table, just two points off the play-offs, ahead of the clash with promotion-chasing Mansfield.