Thursday, February 13, 2020

IT was a mixed week for us as we lost at home in the league for the first time in a couple of months against Cambridge United on Saturday. But we also made it one step closer to Wembley in the trophy with a 1-0 quarter-final victory over Leicester last Tuesday night.

The result against Cambridge was one of the most disappointing we have had this season. Because of results in other games, we would have gained some much-needed ground on those in front of us with a win and we didn’t take advantage of their slip ups.

Cambridge were there for the taking too which probably annoys us that bit more. Bad conditions played a part as Storm Ciara made an appearance, but Cambridge were poor enough. Unfortunately, we weren’t any better and we probably got exactly what we deserved.

That loss has put a lot of pressure on us for upcoming games and we can’t afford many more slip-ups if we are to have any chance of making the play-offs. We do have a chance to get back on track straight away tonight (Tuesday) as we play Walsall at home.

Sometimes you can be a week or 10 days without a game and after a loss that feels like such a long time to try and right the wrongs of the previous result. Hopefully we can win Tuesday, but it won’t be an easy game for us. Walsall are coming into the game on the back of a great win against Forest Green Rovers last Saturday so they will be full of confidence and really fancying their chances against us.

On Saturday we travel to the scene of one of our best performances and celebrations during my time at Newport County as we play Mansfield Town away. We, of course, beat them in a penalty shoot out in the play-off semi final last May to reach Wembley again and just miss out on promotion. But the feeling when the final penalty went in for us was unbelievable and I didn’t want that day to end.

Mansfield have had a bit of a torrid time this season and they have changed manager a couple of times since that game. I think their supporters have pretty much written this season off and the players are all playing for their futures under their new manager too.

Prior to the play-off semi-final game last year, I think I had only had one decent result at Mansfield, so it has always been a bit of a bogey ground for me and a really tough place to go. If we were to take six points this week it would give us a great boost and make teams in front of us get a bit nervous and twitchy, so we need to keep the pressure on them.

Away from the league we beat Leicester in the trophy quarter-final to set up a semi-final against Salford City who made a number of eye-catching signings for League Two level in the January transfer window.

They are, of course, backed by the Manchester United class of 92 (David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt) alongside billionaire Valencia owner Peter Lim.

They signed Rep of Ireland international Darron Gibson and another former Manchester United player, striker James Wilson, who scored twice on his Manchester United debut, so they are attracting a high calibre of player.

It’s going to be a very tough game but the big positive for us is that we have a home draw and not many teams like playing us in Rodney Parade. There should be a massive crowd at the game too as we aim to clinch our third game in Wembley in the last three years which for a club like Newport County would be an amazing achievement.

The last two trips there have both ended in losses though (an FA Cup tie against Spurs and the play-off final against Tranmere Rovers) but hopefully we can make it third time lucky this year.

Before that we need to make sure we get a chance at redemption and beat Salford. They are a club who are riding the crest of a wave and they have big ambitions of climbing the Football League pyramid as quickly as possible. But it’s our job to make sure they get nothing easy against us.

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