10:57am Monday 3rd February 2014
IF there has been one positive from a frustrating six weeks of inactivity for Newport then it's that new backs coach Craig Warlow has been able to get his feet under the table, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Black and Ambers can finally attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when, weather permitting, they host Aberavon in the Premiership tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.30pm).
We are frequently told that momentum is key in sport yet the Black and Ambers have been unable to build up a head of steam since turning over Bedwas at Bridge Field on December 21.
Since then they have had blank weekends because of their failure to qualify for the British and Irish Cup, seen a home game against Cross Keys postponed and endured a Swalec Cup farce against Bonymaen, with the visitors' refusal to play on a Sunday forcing a proposed clash on neutral Newbridge territory, only for that to fall victim to the weather and the subsequent midweek clash at Rodney Parade awarded to the hosts because the west Walians couldn't raise a team.
Even a planned friendly against Blackwood at Glan-yr-Afon Park was wiped out because of a waterlogged pitch.
Newport have had to settle for grafting on the training paddock – which has been useful for Warlow, the replacement for Jon Bryant following his pre-Christmas departure because of work commitments.
The 38-year-old former fly-half, who is third on the Dragons' all-time points list after four seasons at Rodney Parade between 2003 and 2007, has been working hard with his new charges ahead of a clash against a Wizards side that he left last autumn.
"We are desperate for a match but at least the break has given Craig a chance to put his ideas in place with the backs," said head coach Sven Cronk
"It was sad to see Jon go but Craig has fitted in really well; he is a good guy who spends a lot of time planning and has been a breath of fresh air.
"It's almost been like a mini pre-season and the players have worked their socks off, training three times a week," added Cronk.
"We've been doing contact but there's nothing like a game and it's exciting because after readdressing some of our structures we want to see them in action out on the field rather than in training."
Tomorrow is a key battle for eighth-placed Newport as they look to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap.
Aberavon are just three points above cellar dwellers Swansea and head to Rodney Parade buoyed by a hard-earned 18-6 success against the Whites.
Newport are without the services of their Wales Under-20s squad members, who are preparing for their Six Nations clash with Ireland in Athlone on Friday.
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