Phil Foden’s late strike was a killer blow to Newport County’s feeble hopes of somehow pulling off an upset against the Champions of England. And while the Exiles deserved the 4-1 defeat, the very fact that they were playing against them was a dream come true for the Rodney Parade side.
Its the same club that was very close to being shut down back in 1989 and was just as close to losing its Football League status as recently as 2017. But the sport football is, the world relishes every tie involving a David and a Goliath, as the story of the David always catches attention as to how he reached there.
Unlike the likes of Bournemouth or Swansea or any other side that has seen itself reach the Premier League from once being in League Two, Newport have remained there since they survived the drop in 2017. They finished 11th in the 2017-18 season, 11 points off the play-off spots. That was perhaps the target for Mike Flynn, who had done a good job in keeping the club mid-table.
But what uniting the fans of the Welsh club was the FA Cup. Visitors in the form of Leeds United were beaten 2-1 at the Rodney Parade, sending the town into raptures. Just as the fans began believing in going far, Tottenham Hotspur were drawn with them in the next round. While many expected Spurs to win easily, Flynn’s men stood firm and proved that they are a stiff team to beat at home.
Not just did the club’s fans see Harry Kane in action at the stadium which has a capacity of just a little less than 8000, they saw a performance that withstood everything Spurs threw at them. The title challengers had to rely on a late Kane leveller to take the tie to Wembley.
And much like how people predicted the game at home to be, many thought Newport will fold without a fight. But the Exiles gave Spurs a run for their money at Wembley, losing only 2-0. And while they didn’t win the game or the FA Cup, Flynn’s men did win hearts.
Curently 15th in the League Two, with no hopes of promotion, Newport went into the game against Leicester knowing they have what it takes. If they could hold a side that had the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, they sure could beat a struggling Leicester which had beaten Chelsea.
And they did beat them. And the Foxes went down as Newport were the deserved winners. Padraig Amond- the man who had scored the first goal against Spurs, stroked his penalty in to take the Ironsides to the 4th Round tie against Championship side Middlesbrough.
Despite Boro’s struggles, many thought they’d have enough to beat Flynn’s men. It was thought they had done enough in a tournament that had enough of bigger teams. But Newport- cheered on by their home crowd, did the impossible once again. They didn’t just beat them at home, but held them to a 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium- proving that they aren’t just a side that plays at home.
While the City game was a step too far, Newport showed signs that they won’t back down from the challenge throughout the game. They pulled one back despite being 2-0 down, as the crowd roared them on. But playing the Champions of England was a bit too much.
They were never meant to be here, perhaps. But that is where the beauty of football lies. In exploring the impossible and achieiving it when nobody expected it.