NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan says warned his side are in for another “rude awakening” if they look beyond Colchester at a potential bid for the play-offs.

The Exiles travel to Essex on Good Friday with the aim of hitting the boss’ target of 58 points for the League Two campaign, a figure that would eclipse last season.

If they do that they will stay in the mix for the top seven and set up a key clash with Crawley, who are currently in the final play-off berth, at Rodney Parade on Bank Holiday Monday.

County are currently four points behind the Reds, who also have a game in hand, so there is little margin for error.

Coughlan isn’t thinking of anything other than Colchester and has demanded that his players do the same after letting their standards slip in Barrow on Saturday.

The Exiles lost 1-0 to the sixth-placed Bluebirds in the Cumbria wind and the performance angered the manager, who questioned their attitude and application.

“There's always something to play for in football. Some of those lads are out of contract at the end of the season, so there is always something to play for,” said Coughlan.

“You should always have that appetite and desire to play and win, even if it's a bad day like it was in Barrow.

“With the conditions and the pitch, it wasn't a great spectacle but you have to win your individual battles, have a desire and a hunger. That was missing, and that's not us.

“Yes, it was game number 50, we have injuries, players have had to play a lot, there was the travel of seven hours on the motorway on Friday.

“For me they are excuses that don't wash, and I don't like us when we are not at it.”

South Wales Argus: Graham Coughlan thanks the County travelling contingent (Image: Huw Evans Agency)Graham Coughlan thanks the County travelling contingent (Image: Huw Evans Agency) (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

County are still on the fringes of the battle for the last play-off spot but Coughlan is only concerned with Colchester, who gave their hopes of avoiding the drop a boost with a hard-earned 1-1 draw against leaders Mansfield on Saturday.

“We've got it in this team to win the next game, that's all. Anybody who wants to start talking beyond that next game would have got a rude awakening at Barrow,” said Coughlan.

“There is a lot to play for between now and the end of the season, individually and collectively.”

County will be boosted by the return of defender Matt Baker, who was unavailable for the Barrow game after playing for Wales Under-21s the previous night.

Goalkeeper Nick Townsend went off at half-time at Holker Street because of a groin strain with Jonny Maxted his replacement.