Tottenham have been struggling with illness and injuries over the past fortnight and the stars might just have aligned for Newport to produce this season's biggest FA Cup shock at Rodney Parade this weekend, says Mike Holden.
"No matter who Tottenham send out, it won’t change how the Newport approach the game. Flynn has them well-drilled and they pose a significant set piece threat, which can catch any team cold on a given day. From corners alone, they have netted 11 goals from 174 taken - more than double the average conversion rate - and they have yet to concede from 132 corners faced."
Newport v Tottenham
Live on BT Sport 2
Biggest game in a generation for Exiles
Newport prepare for their first competitive game against top-flight opposition since 1986 - which was three years before the old club went bust - and manager Mike Flynn is hopeful that the whole occasion can inspire a new generation of fans to his hometown club.
The 37-year-old rookie started and finished his 18-year playing career with the Exiles but made the vast majority of his 420 league appearances elsewhere. He returned to Rodney Parade almost by chance 12 months ago, shortly after completing his coaching badges alongside Thierry Henry, and stepped into the role as caretaker following the dismissal of Graham Westley.
Newport were bottom of the table at the time, 11 points adrift of safety with only two months remaining, but Flynn triggered a miraculous recovery to survive with virtually the last kick of the season. It now transpires that he's something of a visionary and his intuitive methods are producing consistent results on a modest budget.
The Exiles have averaged 1.66 points per game across 41 League Two matches under Flynn's guidance - which is comfortable play-off standard - and they came from behind to bridge a gap of 53 places in the EFL by dumping Leeds out in the last round.
A record crowd of around 10,000 is expected. Newport haven't beaten top-flight opposition since overcoming Sheffield Wednesday in 1964 and they haven't played in the fifth round of this competition since 1949.
Spurs could still be groggy after injuries and illness
Only Arsenal (13) and Manchester United (12) have won the FA Cup more than Tottenham (8) but you have to go all the way back to 1991 for the last time they lifted the trophy, or indeed appeared in the final. The Lilywhites have reached the semi-finals just six times in that 26 year period.
With a raft of injuries to contend with - and barely a week after many first-teamers were struck down by flu - there's a chance that Mauricio Pochettino could rotate quite heavily here. Spurs started 2018 in decent form but were lacklustre in their last outing at Southampton (1-1) and several key players might be another week away from full match fitness.
With Premier League games against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal to follow, swiftly followed by the first leg of a Champions League double-header with Juventus, Pochettino is highly unlikely to consider the FA Cup a priority at this stage and might leave Spurs vulnerable with his team selection.
Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are back in training but aren't considered ready yet, Serge Aurier (calf) and Harry Winks (ankle) are both doubtful, while Erik Lamela has a bruised backside.
Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen are both being assessed after missing the game at St Mary's through sickness, while Son Heung-Min should be available having played through illness last weekend.
Set piece threat key to Newport chances
Tottenham needed two late goals to deny Wycombe an almighty shock at White Hart Lane in last season's fourth round. A team containing Son, Winks, Kieran Trippier, Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko fell 2-0 and 3-2 behind before eventually clinching a 4-3 win in the seventh minute of stoppage time, having summoned Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele from the bench.
Paul Hayes scored twice in that game and picked up most Man of the Match plaudits. The 34-year-old striker now plays for Newport and has also scored against Chelsea and Manchester City in this competition, although Flynn isn't short of attacking options. Padraig Amond and Frank Nouble will probably start, with Hayes coming off the bench later on.
The Exiles came through the 1-1 home draw with Morecambe in midweek with no fresh injury concerns and they should welcome back regular first-teamers Joss Labadie, Matty Dolan and Ben White, all of whom were rested as a precaution.
No matter who Tottenham send out, it won't change how the Newport approach the game. Flynn has them well-drilled and they pose a significant set piece threat, which can catch any team cold on a given day. From corners alone, they have netted 11 goals from 174 taken - more than double the average conversion rate - and they have yet to concede from 132 corners faced.
Poch could succumb to a perfect storm
If Pochettino chooses to blood some of his youngsters, he might come to regret it. This could be the wrong time and place, and as a speculative punt ahead of any concrete team news, the [19.00] available on the home win with the Sportsbook looks excellent value.
The Rodney Parade pitch was a source of much ridicule last season with three matches postponed and countless others rendered farcical. It was relaid in the summer but this remains a ground that also hosts rugby matches and is a long way from the pristine surface Spurs would normally relish.
In short, all the ingredients appear to be in place for an upset. If these minor concerns combine to create a perfect storm then it's well within the realms of possibility for Newport to spring the biggest upset of this season's competition.
The Newport 2-1 correct score is also worth a nibble at a whopping [51.00].
Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18
Staked: 80 pts
Returned: 46.92 pts
P/L: -33.08 pts