MICHAEL Flynn has thrown down the gauntlet to the Newport County AFC players who are on the fringes, stating that anybody who wants to “throw the towel in” when battling for a starting spot will be out the door in January.

The Exiles have made a superb start to the season and have a three-point lead at the top of League Two, plus a game in hand, despite being held to a draw by Walsall on Tuesday night.

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County have started the season impressively thanks to their strength in depth, which was shown by those that didn’t make the XI against the Saddlers.

Robbie Willmott, Kevin Ellison, Jamie Devitt and Tristan Abrahams came off the bench while goalkeeper Tom King, called up by Wales this month, Scot Bennett and Saikou Janneh were unused substitutes.

Defenders Ashley Baker and Aaron Lewis did not make the matchday squad while Ryan Taylor, Kyle Howkins, David Longe-King and Lewis Collins are on the comeback trail from injury.

Manager Flynn will be forced into one change for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Salford – Swindon have not allowed on-loan midfielder Scott Twine to play in the competition – but he won’t be tinkering with the team for the sake of it.

Free Press Series: DECISIONS: Michael Flynn and assistant Wayne HatswellDECISIONS: Michael Flynn and assistant Wayne Hatswell

“It’s down to them to get into it. That’s what I want, to keep all the players on their toes,” said Flynn.

“For those that want to throw the towel in, January is coming. Those that want to stay and be a part of it, great.”

Flynn's squad have frequently said they are enjoying the fierce competition but the plight of Longe-King highlights a challenge facing those on the comeback trail.

The defender is yet to make his debut after suffering a pre-season groin injury shortly after signing from St Albans City.

County’s strength in depth and form in the league makes it tough to give action to those that are rusty.

“It’s through training (that players have to get back to full fitness) and we might arrange behind closed doors games in a few weeks, but there’s not much that you can do really,” admitted Flynn.

“It’s game, rest, tick over, game, it’s thick and fast so there is not that much I can do.”

County face Salford on Saturday (kick-off 1pm) in a round two clash that will be settled on the afternoon before returning to League Two action at fourth-placed Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday.

The Exiles dropped points for the first time this season at Rodney Parade after being harried by the energetic Saddlers, disrupting the style of playing out from the back that has been so successful this season.

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“We were second best in the first half but in the second half we were a lot better,” said Flynn. “The final pass or final decision wasn’t there but it was a big improvement.

“Walsall were good – they looked up for it and were organised. They packed out the midfield so that we couldn’t get a lot of good possession.

“Last season we would have lost that game. We would have lost it and wouldn’t have looked like getting back into it.

“It was a big improvement in the second half and that was the pleasing thing. The subs came on and did well again, it’s definitely given me food for thought.”