NEWPORT County AFC boss Michael Flynn has thrown down the gauntlet to his charges and challenged them to secure promotion from League Two on the back of their cup heroics.

Flynn was proud of the Exiles’ performance at Wembley on Wednesday night, and insists a return to the famous stadium for the League Two play-off final in May is in the players’ hands.

The 2-0 replay defeat to Spurs means County have now lost three in a row in all competitions, so they will be desperate to arrest that run when Forest Green Rovers visit Rodney Parade on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

County are currently five points adrift of the play-offs but Flynn believes that last season’s great escape is going to serve them well in their promotion push this term.

“It stands us in good stead because we know we can claw back a points deficit,” he said.

“But I’ll be honest with you, I’m going to put more pressure on myself now than I did last season.

“If you had asked 100 people if we could have stayed up, 100 would have said ‘no chance’.

“Now, can we drag back five points? If you asked 100 people you might get 30 who say ‘yes’.

“I’m going to make sure the boys know how important it is, without putting pressure on them.

“They know what it takes and we had a good chat after the game on Wednesday.

“I said ‘look, we’ve experienced this now, so if you want to come back here it’s in your hands, because if you produce the levels that you produced in the two games against Spurs you’re going to win the majority of games in League Two’.

“I’ve thrown down the gauntlet and it’s up to them to rise to the challenge.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care if we don’t get to Wembley and finish third, I’d much rather finish third because it means an extra month off.

“If we have to do it the hard way then that’s the challenge. I’d rather go to Wembley than finish eighth, but I’d rather finish third than go to Wembley.”

He added: “It was a tremendous cup run, brilliant for the club, the fans and players, but that’s gone now and we’ve got 15 games left to get as many points as we can.

“We were 11 points adrift of safety last season and we made that up, so the play-offs are definitely within reach.”

Speaking further on the goal for the rest of the campaign, Flynn said: “You can feel the buzz around here and we don’t want to go out with a whimper, we want to finish the season on a high.

“And if we can get into the play-offs, what an amazing achievement that would be.

“It’s a fantastic improvement since last year and if we can get to the play-offs it’s going to be one hell of a turnaround.

“I think the club is definitely ready for the play-offs now with the extra money in the bank.”

Meanwhile, Flynn is “quietly confident” that captain Joss Labadie will follow him and sign a new deal at Rodney Parade.

“He’s a big presence in the dressing room, that’s why he’s the captain,” Flynn said.

“He’s like that every day in training and I haven’t got enough good words to say about him.

“He helps drag a few in the right direction as well which is crucial.”

And the County chief added that he would be “silly” not to think about developing his relationship with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino by looking into the possibility of taking Tottenham youngsters on loan in the future.

“Knowing Mauricio, he’ll like the way we play and will want to get his players ready for the physicality of men’s football,” he added.

“You can see he’s still got those traits in him even though he’s evolved into a modern manager.”