Boss Chris Beech admits he can’t wait to put three weeks of upheaval behind him and see Carlisle United back in action tonight.

The Blues’ promotion challenge finally resumes against high-flying rivals Newport County (Rodney Parade, 7pm).

It comes after a string of postponements and a Covid-19 shutdown at United, who have not played since January 2’s 2-0 win at Walsall.

Beech could involve a number of new faces in his squad tonight, while victory could give the Blues a chance of returning to the top of League Two.

“It’s ridiculous how long it feels,” the United head coach said.

“It’s not really that long, but I can’t wait to get back on the bike, as they say.

“We’ve got 25 opportunities now, starting with Newport. Granted, you wouldn’t really look to prep this way to play Newport, and Newport away, coming out of a Covid-chaotic period – 100 per cent you wouldn’t really want that.

“But it is what it is, we’ll adapt and attack the opportunity that’s in front of us.

“Personally I cannot wait to put my shirt and tie back on, and my matchday jacket, and be ready to go.”

United recntly returned from a spell away from Brunton Park when a number of the squad tested positive for the virus.

The Blues have not given any details of the latest test results after players were back at the ground.

But United will hope to return to action with good numbers and in a positive manner in south Wales, in a game which will see Beech consider places in the squad for new boys Morgan Feeney, Offrande Zanzala, Cedwyn Scott and the returning loanee Ethan Walker.

Beech should also have skipper Nick Anderton and top scorer Jon Mellish available after they sat out games before the recent run of postponements through Covid self-isolation and injury respectively.

Tonight’s opponents are out of sorts after a seven-game league run without a win, although Carlisle have a poor recent record at Rodney Parade.

Fourth-placed United are a point behind Mike Flynn’s third-placed Exiles with two games in hand – and three points behind leaders Cambridge, who go to Salford tonight.

Beech said of tonight’s opponents: “First and foremost, Newport are a great team, [with a] great manager. He’s done brilliantly, and in the cup competitions as well.

“I have a lot of respect for Flynny and how he has them playing.

“He has his challenges, as we do here; I know the type and style of football they’re trying to play and they’ve obviously got the challenges of the pitch that’s shared with rugby.

“I just have so much respect for him because of what he’s done and how he’s done it, and the players do who play for him, you can see that.

“I think the game will be a very difficult one. It’s just a mad season, if you consider the last time we played was January 2…and some of the lads’ first days back at work will actually be at Newport.

“We have to make sure we always do what I express – work in a no-excuse environment. Our circumstances have put us in this position both on and off the pitch, we have to make sure we take all of our efforts into our next opportunity.”

On the tight battle for places at the top of League Two, Beech said lots can change in a short space of time.

“Cambridge are top now, only three or four weeks ago they were a little bit further down than they wanted to be after setting off like a house on fire,” the Blues boss said. “Morecambe did, then Newport did – Newport were well clear at one stage.

“These things do that over a longer race and distance, so I have no doubt that will keep continuing to happen, as the division is tight.

“I have no interest whatsoever in that league table until the last day of the season. In terms of rivals, I think the only rival we have is ourselves.

“We have to make sure we have to look after ourselves and understand what our traits are, and make sure we adhere to them.”