NEWPORT County AFC can put cup competitions to one side for a whole month after tonight’s trek to Brighton, allowing them to concentrate fully on climbing back up the league ladder.

After Friday’s FA Cup win at Maldon & Tiptree and tonight’s Leasing.com Trophy tie against Brighton & Hove Albion under-21s, the focus will be on League Two until the third round in the first weekend of January.

And the frantic festive fixture list kicks off in earnest this Saturday with a trip to fellow promotion hopefuls Bradford City.

Football folk are legally obliged to describe the games as coming “thick and fast” over the Christmas period and this year the games are coming thicker and faster than Tyson Gay or Ben Johnson.

The trip to Valley Parade is the first of six league matches in 26 days for the Exiles, with 18 points up for grabs between this weekend and New Year’s Day when Cheltenham Town come to Rodney Parade.

County may have fallen to 11th in the table after three successive league defeats, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that they have two games in hand over many of the clubs above them with trips to Cheltenham and Grimsby Town to be rearranged after Christmas.

And the win at Maldon means that a new date will also have to be found for the away match at Carlisle United, which was scheduled for January 4.

A victory at Bradford, who have failed to win any of their last five fixtures and have recently lost at home to Shrewsbury Town, Rochdale and Port Vale, would put Flynn’s men just a point behind the Bantams with a game in hand.

And the Exiles boss, who played for Bradford between 2009 and 2012, considers Gary Bowyer’s team to be amongst the favourites to go up this season.

“I think Gary has done an outstanding job at Bradford where the circumstances were tough when he went in,” said Flynn earlier in the campaign.

“He’s won the crowd back around; he’s got the team playing and fighting for the badge again and that goes to show what a good manager he is.

“He’s had a good career – he did very well at Blackpool as well – and Bradford are going to be one of the big boys this season.”

Recent results and performances in the league have been desperately disappointing.

But if you’d told County fans in August that their team would be within a point of Bradford after 18 games, most would have accepted that gladly.

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If they can recover their form this month, which will be easier said than done with a lengthy injury list, then the Exiles could put themselves right back in the promotion picture by the time they return to FA Cup action.

Success in the cups this season, with £182,000 already guaranteed from the FA Cup run to date, also means that Flynn should be able to further strengthen his squad in January.

And with additions likely in midfield and potentially up front as well, success or failure in the transfer market next month could be a major factor in how the rest of the season pans out.

Not all of Flynn’s signings last January worked out as he’d hoped, but the loan deal for Regan Poole played a big part in helping County make the League Two play-off final.

Flynn believes the division is much tighter this time around and the table seems to back up that assertion with only bottom two Stevenage and Morecambe completely out of the race for the play-offs as we approach the 20-game mark.

“It’s going to be a really tough league this year,” predicted Flynn back in August.

“I don’t think there’s any obvious favourite to go down. I don’t think there’s any obvious favourite to go up.

“It’s going to be one hell of a rat race this season, because everyone is going to be ready to claw, scrape, fight and play their way to the play-offs.

“I can’t see one weak team. Everybody is having a go at each other.

“So, it’s going to be tough. There are no gimmes this season. There weren’t last season either, but it’s a lot more competitive this year.”

It’s time for the Exiles to get back to clawing, scraping and fighting like we know they can if they are to remain in the hunt for a place in the top seven come the end of the rat race.

Read more: Padraig Amond hopes cup cash can help Newport County strengthen in January