LAST season it was Nick Townsend having to watch on from the sidelines while Tom King kept clean sheets but the roles have been reversed at high-flying Newport County AFC.

The man with squad number 30 will be between the sticks when the Exiles welcome Colchester United to Rodney Parade tomorrow evening (kick-off 7pm) after he ousted his teammate with 1 on his back.

Townsend got the nod for the season opener against Swansea and has kept his place for the League Two fixtures plus the Carabao Cup clashes with Watford and Newcastle.

King made a superb start to 2019/20 with a remarkable seven clean sheets in eight appearances, form that put him on the Wales radar and led to a call-up from Ryan Giggs.

Now it is Townsend who is helping the Exiles to be miserly – he has picked the ball out of the net just seven times in 11 outings and has kept three clean sheets in a row.

Not that the West Midlander is resting on his laurels.

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"It's tough competition between me and 'Kingy', he has been class off the field and has supported me," said Townsend.

"He is an outstanding 'keeper and I think that the club is lucky to have two players that could be number 1 and step in at any time.

"It's hard, don't get me wrong, because I know that if at any stage I slip up then he is going to be in.

"That's what we need throughout the team, the lads that have come in have meant that there is competition all over the field. Everyone has to be on their toes."

Townsend is loving the quiet life behind a well-drilled County defence of Brandon Cooper, Matty Dolan and Mickey Demetriou.

County are ensuring their 'keeper isn't overworked, although the 25-year-old has been strong when called into action.

"The lads – Matty, Mickey and 'Coops', plus whoever has stepped in – have been unbelievable. I've hardly had any shots to save in the last few games," said Townsend, who has also benefitted from Stevenage and Bradford being denied by the crossbar.

"I haven't had a lot to do because they have been so solid. Any ball that has come into the box, they have been brave.

"It's alright saying that I have kept a clean sheet but it's a team effort from everyone.

"There hasn't been anything silly. I know that we are trying to play out from the back and there could be mistakes but when the ball has to go, it has to go. We have that balance at the moment."

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Three wins in respond to their solitary disappointment of the season at Cambridge have lifted County to the top of the table.

The Exiles now have two home fixtures to strengthen their position with ninth-placed Colchester and sixth-placed Harrogate heading for Rodney Parade.

"We've started the season well and all of the lads are sticking together, even the ones that are not in the team," said Townsend. "It seems to be clicking at the moment.

"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 with the way that we are going.

"It's a great start for us but we are staying grounded. We haven't won anything yet, it's only a few games in and we have a lot more to prove. We just need to keep our heads solid.

"When you are on a decent run you want the games to come thick and fast to keep the momentum going. It can be a blessing.

"We've just got to keep our home form solid and keep picking up points away."