AFTER what felt like the quickest off-season and pre-season off my life, we were back into the important stuff with the first game of the new Football League season taking place on Saturday.
We began with a home game against Mansfield Town who we had beaten on penalties in the semi-final of the play-offs last May, so we knew it was going to be a very tough start.
We got our league campaign up and going with a point after a 2-2 draw, but it was a case of two points dropped for us as we were 2-0 up at half time and cruising.
A sloppy 10-minute spell at the beginning of the second half cost us. Apart from those 10 minutes, we dominated the game, especially when they were reduced to 10 men with the sending off of their midfielder Jacob Mellis.
We couldn’t make that extra man count and the closest we came was when I had a goal disallowed in injury time but there were lots of positives to take from the game too.
We had a number of new players making their debuts for the club who performed very well which bodes well for us for the coming season.
We lost a couple of very important players from our squad from last season and it was always going to be a tough ask for our manager to replace those players, but on first showing in the league, they looked good.
Mansfield were once again one of the promotion favourites while we aren’t expected to mount a challenge according to the experts which I think is a bit disrespectful. We will enjoy proving the doubters wrong again this season.
There is still a lot of hurt in the dressing room from the play-off final loss last season and we are determined to use that as motivation to go one step further this season.
As a striker you always want to score your first goal of the season as quickly as possible to take the pressure off and thankfully, I was able to do that on Saturday, scoring our second goal of the game.
The aim is to score more goals than I did last season so now the first one is out of the way I’m hoping there are many more goals to come.
We are away from home this Saturday at Cambridge United. We have had a bit of a hoodoo over Cambridge since I have signed for Newport, beating them in all six games we have played them in so hopefully that continues this weekend.
It will be a tough game though because they have changed their squad quite a lot and they also had a very good result away to Bradford City at the weekend, getting a draw, so they will fancy their chances against us too.
I think the league is going to be a lot tougher for everyone as some of the teams who came down from League One, and also the teams who were promoted, are very big clubs.
Plymouth Argyle, Scunthorpe and Bradford City all came down and they will fancy their chances of bouncing back straight away. Particularly Plymouth who have appointed Ryan Lowe (the manager who got Bury promoted with all the financial difficulties they had) and they have signed four of Bury’s main players too so they will be there or thereabouts.
The big wildcard this season is Salford City who were promoted from the National League last season. They are probably the favourites to go up with the signings they have made so far.
They are backed by five of the Manchester United class of ’92 and also by billionaire Valencia owner Peter Lim so money will be no object to them to get to where they want to be.
A lot of clubs and supporters will be envious of their money, but money doesn’t guarantee success and there have been lots of clubs who haven’t been promoted from this division after spending silly money.
Although we aren’t one of the fancied teams to be promoted this season, I still think we are going to be a marked team because of our success in the league and also the FA Cup last season.
That is a compliment to us, but it is also up to ourselves to show we are good enough to make the next step and prove it wasn’t a one-season wonder from us.