NEWPORT County AFC coach Wayne Hatswell has praised the squad for adapting to their new normal after having to modify sessions because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Exiles have returned to pre-season training at Cwmbran Stadium ahead of the League Two kick-off on September 12.

Manager Michael Flynn and his assistant Hatswell have had to tinker with their normal routine because of the pandemic.

The squad have trained in small groups with staggered arrival times with social distancing measures in place and no contact in sessions.

County, who last played at Carlisle in March, would normally have been kicking off their campaign in the first week of August but these are different times with Hatswell & Co having to adapt accordingly.

 

"It's a bit strange to be coming back in August but it is what it is," said the assistant, who helped County to a 14th-place finish last season.

"We've just got to make the most of the time off that we've had off. It's been a chance for us to reflect as individuals and as a team.

"We want to get the boys as fit as we possibly can in preparation for the start of the season in September.

"They all know it's going to be tough but they've come back in pretty good nick and we want to keep everyone safe. That's the main thing.

"They've had programmes for the months that they've been off, but at some point they needed a break as well which was important.

"There were no gyms open so that's another thing that they've had to battle. The sessions are a bit different for us because we've got smaller groups and there's no contact at the moment.

"As a coach it's been different but it's a period that I've had a long time to prepare for. I'm chuffed with the players and the way they've come back."

County will get under way on September 12 and the regular season ends on May 8 – meaning 46 games, plus cup fixtures, have to be crammed into 34 weeks.

With most lower league clubs expected to operate with slimmer squads because of the financial hit from coronavirus, management teams will have to be smart with players' workloads.

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"We're probably going to have two games a week near enough, so we're going to have to look after the players," Hatswell said.

"We focused on that a lot in Tuesday's meeting. It's going to be a long season but they are normally anyway and it's never easy.

"We've just got to make sure that what we do now benefits us in six weeks' time and beyond that as well. That's the whole point of pre-season.

"We've got a plan in our heads and when the fixtures are released, we can start looking into different things. But at the moment we're focused on looking after the players here and making sure they're ready to go."

The season will start with games behind closed doors but Hatswell is hopeful that County will soon be boosted by the Amber Army.

"It will be good to see them back at Rodney Parade. We've got a good nucleus of fans and we are going to miss them," he said.

"Hopefully that gets sorted soon and we can get them back in the building to cheer us on."

The final club of the 24 in League Two will depend on the EFL's appeal over sanctions against Macclesfield, which is on Tuesday.

At present it is Stevenage who are dropping down to the National League.