Newport v Middlesbrough
Tuesday 5 February, 19:45
Live on BBC One
Newport have appetite for Cup success
Newport have only ever been beyond the FA Cup fourth round once before and have a genuine chance of, at least, matching that feat this season. Back in 1949 they took their opportunity first time as they ousted Leeds 3-1 at Elland Road. 70 years later they now have home advantage after earning a replay courtesy of a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
It was former Boro boy Matthew Dolan, who never ran out for the 1st Team while on Middlesbrough's books, who scrambled home a late leveller against his former employers.
County have already eliminated Premier League Leicester 2-1 in the previous round thanks to Padraig Amond's late penalty. They have a real belief at Rodney Parade that they can send the Championship big boys Boro packing.
Newport were soundly beaten 3-0 away at Grimsby this weekend, but their home form is decent, having won eight, drawn four and lost just two of their games at Rodney Parade. They also have an aptitude for generating cup shocks. Last season they beat Leeds before taking Spurs to a replay, only to be restricted late on by a Harry Kane equaliser. Newport have lost just one of their last six home FA Cup games against sides from the top two tiers (W3, D2).
Mid-table in League Two, Michael Flynn's side have won just one of their last nine league matches, but the Cup seems to free them up to play their best football. The worry for Flynn will be how his defence copes with a Championship strike force, having conceded 48 goals this season, fourth worst in the fourth tier.
Do Boro have eyes on this prize?
Tony Pulis' team surely have promotion back to the Premier League as their main focus this season. They certainly cannot afford to underestimate their Welsh hosts on Tuesday evening if they want the potentially thankless task of taking on Man City in the next round.
Boro are unbeaten in seven games across all competitions after a Britt Assombalonga brace secured a win against fellow promotion chasers West Brom at the weekend after coming from 2-1 behind in the West Midlands. They have won six of their 14 matches on the road in the Championship this season and concentrate of defence, conceding a Championship low of 11 goals on away trips.
Pulis may rest some of his usual starters for this trip with crunch league matches against Leeds at the weekend and Sheffield United the following Wednesday. A positive point for Boro - they have progressed from 22 of their last 24 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division.
Can Newport punch above their weight again?
The lure of a fifth round match up with Manchester City is much more of a financial carrot for Newport. Boss Flynn has admitted, "Getting a result against Boro would be absolutely huge for the football club. This game could be worth up to seven figures, what with the prize money, extra money for going further than any other League Two club, TV money and another sell-out."
The match at the Riverside was evenly contested and Newport hold a definite threat from set pieces. Of course Boro have better players at their disposal - they sure fifth in the Championship against Newport's 14th in League Two.
But hunger, pride and desire are huge factors in this cup competition and Newport have all three galore and are my play to qualify at 2.8415/8.
For Boro Britt Assombalonga has nine goals this season, including two on Saturday, and Jordan Hugill is next on the list with four. If Boro find the net there is every chance Assombalonga is your man at 13/8.
But as I sense a shock in this one the leading Newport marksmen are my play to be cup heroes in front of their own fans and the TV cameras. Padraig Amond has 11 goals this season and is 13/5 anytime, whereas Jamille Matt has notched nine times and is priced at 11/4.
*You can follow James on Twitter - @football_badger