By Rob Carbon
James Rowberry is going to resist the temptation to call his predecessor Michael Flynn and ask him how he managed to beat League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers.
But the current Newport County boss has certainly been reviewing that game two weeks ago when Flynn’s new club Walsall overcame the favourites for promotion.
Rowberry has also studied the other two recent outings by his side’s promotion rivals to understand what has forced Rovers to go three games without a win.
In fact, Rob Edwards’ men, who come to Rodney Parade on Tuesday for a key clash at the top end of the table, have picked up only two victories from their last six matches.
Where Walsall led in ending Forest Green’s 19-game unbeaten home run, Crawley Town followed last weekend as they beat the Green Army 2-1 – the visitors’ first away defeat in the league in 322 days.
Prior to that, Sutton United had held them to 1-1 draw and the last two reverses have doubled the number of games they have lost in the league this season.
Their lead at the top has been slashed to 10 points, with Northampton Town now in second following County’s 3-1 win over Tranmere at the weekend.
— Sky Bet League Two (@SkyBetLeagueTwo) February 27, 2022
It is almost a year since Forest Green lost three league games in a row and the last time they came to Rodney Parade was in the play-off semi-finals last season, when they were beaten 2-0.
Still on the fringes of the play-off places, Rowberry knows that a similar result could see his side rocket from eighth to fourth, albeit having played more games than many of the teams around them.
“We are going to have to prepare really well because it is going to be a really tough, tactical game,” said Rowberry, who was at the helm when County were beaten 2-0 at the New Lawn on 5 February.
“We’ll look to do things that we felt we could have done better at their place. I don’t particularly like looking at their recent form, so we’ll prepare for it on face value.”
Victory over Tranmere may have been sweet, but it did come at a price.
Days after Rowberry announced Priestly Farquharson would miss the rest of the season, and that Josh Pask and Courtney Baker-Richardson would miss six weeks of action, Robbie Willmott limped off in the first half at the weekend with a calf problem.
Rob Street was given the responsibility of partnering hot-shot Dom Telford up front against Tranmere and the Crystal Palace loan star could well get another chance tonight.
Liverpool loanee Jake Cain came on to replace Willmott and looks set to start in his place if he fails to recover.
The game is shaping into a huge contest that could have ramifications for both sides. County have picked up four points from two teams above them in the table in the last eight days and another three would enhance their promotion hopes.
Forest Green, meanwhile, will be looking to get back on the horse after their recent defeats. Their manager has called for calm.
“We need to re-set and not panic because we are still in a very good position. It was the end of a really good run of results the week before and now our away run has ended,” said the former Wales international defender, Edwards.
“Football always gives you a good opportunity to bounce back with the number of games coming up. We have got to do better as a group, keep believing, stay strong and come out fighting.”