NEWPORT were battling to avoid relegation from the Conference South when James Vaughan made Premier League headlines.

On the weekend that Vaughan came off Everton’s bench against Crystal Palace to make history as the top division’s youngest scorer, the Welsh side were losing 3-1 to Welling United five levels below.

Fourteen years on and they will share the same pitch at Valley Parade tomorrow – the latest in several firsts this season for the City skipper.

After a career spent predominantly in the top two levels, this is a first taste of League Two for Vaughan.

He had only played in the third tier for one prolific year at Bury and the odd loan appearance with Portsmouth in the second half of last season.

So, life at the coal face of the bottom division is a completely new experience like last week’s first trip to Macclesfield.

Now he faces another as City take on Newport for the first time since April 1985.

“It’s a difficult league like everything,” said Vaughan. “There are probably less mistakes higher up but the games are still tough.

“It’s a bit more physical at this level but I’m enjoying it. I’m looking forward to every game, so I can’t complain.”

Valley Parade hosts its first league action for five weeks with City in need of rediscovering the momentum that had pushed them into the promotion mix.

A disjointed run of cup involvement and postponements has been followed by defeat at Plymouth and last week’s unconvincing draw against Macclesfield.

Vaughan’s second-half header made up for a bad miss early on but City failed to take full advantage of their game in hand on the rest of the front runners.

He added: “I don’t think the season has been frustrating. We’ve had a very disrupted time.

“We seem to find a team that’s settled and then an injury will come along and hinder us or a suspension.

“But we definitely know there’s a lot more to come from us. We’re just trying to put things together so it clicks at the right time.

“It’s not through lack of trying. We’re doing everything every week to get us in the positions we want to be.

“There is so much football to play between now and the end of the season. You can’t get carried away wherever you are in the league.

“As long as we do what we know we can, then I’m sure that we’ll be in the shake-up.”

The weight of expectation remains heavy on the club with the largest crowds in the fourth tier. Newport, like every other Valley Parade visitor, will be pumped up to try to add to City’s discomfort.

But Vaughan accepts that comes with the territory.

“As players, we’ve all been in the position of being the underdog. Those victories against bigger clubs are always great moments.

“We’ve got to deal with the fact that teams will come to us and raise their game.

“But it’s like that because of the club we’re at. They respect where we are and what we’re doing so we have to work as hard as everybody else.

“We know where the club should be. But it’s one thing thinking that and another actually getting there.

“We don’t have the right to be in League One. We have to work to get back up and everybody in the club knows that.”

Clayton Donaldson has started training again this week following his toe surgery. The prospect of his strike partner’s return for the Christmas period would come as a timely pick-me-up.

Vaughan admitted: “He’s not just a key player but a key member of the dressing room and we’ve missed him badly.

“But the lads who have come in to replace him have been brilliant. But we’ll look forward to having him back.

“There are going to be times in the season when everyone will have to step up and help each other.

“Clayts isn’t out there but he’s working hard to come back and it will be a big boost when he does.”