By Bob Charbon
Table-toppers Newport County plan to stretch their lead at the top of League Two tonight thanks to the elasticity of goalkeeper Nick Townsend.
The 25-year-old former Barnsley keeper has made some superb saves in managing three clean sheets on the bounce for County who have not conceded a goal for 299 minutes.
This time last season, Townsend was kicking his heels and cursing his luck as he saw Tom King string together six successive clean sheets to help County to a dream start to their campaign.
Now, the gloves are on the other hands as Townsend is fast eating into the 586 minutes that King kept the ball out of his net last year.
That has helped Newport go two points clear at the top of the table and with two home games in the space of five days this week, starting with tonight’s clash with Colchester United at Rodney Parade, there is every chance of them extending their current winning streak.
The win at Valley Parade was the third in a row to make it the best start to a league campaign in the club’s history.
The last time Michael Flynn’s side won four in a row was at the start of the 2018-19 season, when they beat Notts County (3-2), Grimsby (1-0), Port Vale (2-1) and Oldham (1-0).
“It’s tough competition between Tom and me. He is an outstanding keeper and he has been class off the field and has supported me,” said Townsend.
“The club is lucky to have two players that could be number 1 and step in at any time. I know that if at any stage I slip up then he is going to be in.
“There is competition all over the field and everyone has to be on their toes.”
Colchester finished last season in sixth place, but failed to reach the play-off final after losing to Exeter City in the semi-final.
They are currently in ninth place, having been beaten only once, and are six points behind the league leaders.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) October 26, 2020
They won the only contest between the two teams last season and will bring a considerable threat.
Flynn is set to lose striker Saikou Janneh because of the hamstring injury he picked up in the win at Bradford, but the ever reliable Padraig Amond is ready to step in and sniff out more goals.
The competition for places throughout the squad is helping to drive up standards and Flynn believes this could be the strongest squad he has had at his disposal since taking over as manager.
That is a point not lost on the 25-year-old Townsend.
“We’ve started the season well and all of the lads are sticking together, even the ones that are not in the team. It seems to be clicking at the moment,” he added.
“The lads know their jobs, everyone has been solid and everyone is moving in the right direction with it all. It’s been enjoyable and the only thing that is killing it is not having the fans in.
“When you are on a decent run it can be blessing when games come thick and fast because it helps keep the momentum going. We’ve just got to keep our home form solid and keep picking up points away.”