OFFRANDE Zanzala believes he is starting to hit top gear for Newport County AFC after nearly a year of injury torment.

The striker will look to continue his fine form for the play-off chasing Exiles when they head to Barrow, one of his former clubs, in League Two on Saturday.

Zanzala has been a key figure in the recent strong run that has County, tipped by plenty for a relegation scrap, hunting the top seven.

The 27-year-old made his return from 11 months out because of ruptured knee ligaments with a brief cameo in the 2-1 win against Swindon at the start of February.

Zanzala has made 10 appearances this season, scored a double in the thumping win at Harrogate and provided two excellent assists in victories last week, setting up Harry Charsley’s strike to make it 4-3 against Morecambe then Bryn Morris’ opener at AFC Wimbledon.

The latter was a sign of the striker, who added serious dynamism at the start of his injury-hit County career, getting back to his best.

Zanzala ran in behind, leap to control Adam Lewis’ chipped pass, showed strength to hold off the defender and laid the ball off for a superb Morris hit from distance.

The forward might be disappointed that he hasn’t bagged more than two goals - he had big chances against Morecambe and was denied in a one-on-one at Plough Lane - but the signs are promising.

South Wales Argus: ATHLETIC: County striker Offrande Zanzala controlled the ball superbly before laying the ball off for Bryn Morris to score at WimbledonATHLETIC: County striker Offrande Zanzala controlled the ball superbly before laying the ball off for Bryn Morris to score at Wimbledon (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It’s good to be back getting in the swing of things with games, training and being back with the lads,” he said. “It’s good being a part of winning games.

“With the sharpness, I feel that it’s clicked and I am back to my old self. With what I am doing in training and in games, my identity is all there and I feel confident in myself for the end of the season.”

Players wear GPS monitors and Zanzala is hitting new top speeds – “I want to keep getting quicker and quicker” – after being gradually brought back.

The striker suffered a serious hamstring tear last season, then a relapse and then ruptured knee ligaments but is confident he hasn’t lost any athletic threat.

“I am very explosive so had to tick off certain elements in my rehab,” he said. “I did that with the support of the physios and belief is one of the biggest things – believing that I am still quick, strong, sharp and explosive.

“It could go the other way, you might doubt yourself and not go in for tackles, be as physical or play a different style to how you used to.

“I’ve shown my strengths and sharpness in the last few games. I believe in the tools that I have got and will utilise them to the max.”

Zanzala is being helped by County’s ability to be cautious – the longest he has been on the pitch is 65 minutes.

Manager Graham Coughlan has three other fit senior forward options in top scorer Will Evans, Seb Palmer-Houlden and Luke Jephcott, Omar Bogle is on the comeback trail and academy prospect Kiban Rai is also in the mix.

“Competition pushed you and keeps you on your toes,” said Zanzala. “It keeps you sharp and mentally ready because when the chance comes you have to take it.

“We are all on the same page in wanting to do well as a team and also individually.”

South Wales Argus: FOCUSED: County striker Offrande ZanzalaFOCUSED: County striker Offrande Zanzala (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Zanzala, who has made 27 appearances for the club, is also relaxed when it comes to his future with his County contract expiring at the end of the campaign.

“I am a senior pro now and know how things work,” he said. “I know the script at this moment of the season and it’s so important to stay focused and not be distracted.

“You can’t take your eyes off the prize when there is something for us to grab. With contracts, I believe and know I am a good player, so what will happen will happen.”

County travel to sixth-placed Barrow on Saturday before two quickfire games over Easter, heading to struggling Colchester on Good Friday and then hosting play-off rivals Crawley on Bank Holiday Monday.