NEWPORT County AFC beat Wrexham and gave Manchester United a scare in January, but now all five members of the defence from those highs are on the sidelines.

The Exiles travel to face a Grimsby side who are fighting for League Two survival this weekend and it will be a makeshift line-up at the back.

Graham Coughlan’s side are low on numbers and confidence after a three-game losing streak that has led to them falling out of contention for the play-offs.

On Monday they were hammered 4-0 by seventh-placed Crawley and three players suffered hamstring injuries on a miserable afternoon in Newport.

Stalwart Scot Bennett, who has moved back to the heart of defence from midfield because of the injury crisis, was forced off in the first half.

Full-back Lewis Payne was called from the bench on the hour but, with Crawley 3-0 up, the Southampton prospect went down off the ball and that meant that the Exiles had to finish with 10 men because they had already stopped the game three times when making four substitutions.

In reality they finished with nine due to experienced midfielder Aaron Wildig also feeling a tight hamstring – he hobbled around for the final stages but couldn’t impact the game as the Reds struck a fourth in added time.

South Wales Argus: BLOW: Scot Bennett went off in the first half of County's loss to CrawleyBLOW: Scot Bennett went off in the first half of County's loss to Crawley (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

County are braced to be without the trio for Saturday’s trip to Blundell Park when they will have to try and stand firm against a Mariners side who really need to exploit their visitors’ weakness.

Grimsby drew 1-1 at home to Bradford on Monday after conceding a penalty in added time with Denver Hume sent off and now suspended for the weekend.

They won’t have a better chance of totting up three points in their relegation battle with resurgent Sutton and the bottom pair of Colchester and Forest Green.

County’s strong form at the start of the year came when Shane McLoughlin and Adam Lewis were down the flanks, Bennett was at the heart of the defence with captain Ryan Delaney to his left and James Clarke to his right.

With Matt Baker injured, that was how County got the job done on a freezing night in Eastleigh to earn an FA Cup shot at Manchester United.

The quintet continued in the 1-0 win against Wrexham, when the Exiles were on top before Will Boyle's dismissal, and against the Red Devils when denied by two late strikes.

Now all five are injured and the only specialist centre-backs available are 21-year-old Stoke prospect Baker and Kyle Jameson, who has only recently returned from a hip injury that sidelined him for five months.

Coughlan prefers playing wing-backs but opted for a flat four against Crawley and, unless he gets very creative, will have to stick with that at Grimsby.

South Wales Argus: Harrison Bright in action for County against CrawleyHarrison Bright in action for County against Crawley (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Harrison Bright is the only option at right-back while at left-back he’s got either Newcastle loanee Matty Bondswell, who had a tough time on Monday, or versatile 20-goal forward Will Evans.

County are spoilt for choice up front with Evans, Offrande Zanzala, Seb Palmer-Houlden, Luke Jephcott, youngster Kiban Rai and fit-again Omar Bogle, a Mariners favourite who made his first appearance since Boxing Day off the bench against Crawley.

Sadly, none of those seem to fit the bill as a Dion Dublin/Ian Marshall type figure who can move from up top to defence.

“I hope there is enough about us to not let the season fizzle out,” said Coughlan after the 4-0 loss to Crawley, but options are limited.

County's absentees against Crawley: Ryan Delaney (CB), James Clarke (CB), Declan Drysdale (CB), Josh Seberry (CB/RB), Shane McLoughlin (RB), Adam Lewis (LB).

Injured against Crawley: Scot Bennett (CB/CM), Lewis Payne (RB/LB), Aaron Wildig (CM).