Pádraig Amond sets up Newport’s dream tie with Man City
Carlow man struck once again as Welsh side saw off Middlesbrough to reach fifth round
Pádraig Amond of Newport County celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the FA Cup Fourth Round Replay against Middlesbrough at Rodney Parade. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Newport County 2 Middlesbrough 0
As Robbie Willmott belly flopped on to a mudbath of a pitch, the Newport County party was in truth only just getting started. Newport’s love affair with the FA Cup continued as they overcame Middlesbrough at a rain-soaked Rodney Parade to tee up a fifth-round tie with Manchester City on February 16th. Willmott has the kind of back story that belongs in the FA Cup, given the winger was stacking shelves in Tesco two years ago, before helping Newport to retain their league status last year. All the ingredients were there for a true cup upset on an unforgettable night, when Willmott’s thumping effort earned the League Two side the lead before Pádraig Amond doubled their advantage, sparking fervour in the stands.
Michael Flynn, the Newport manager, said he gave the prospect of hosting the Premier League champions little thought, citing Bullseye and how his players could end up with a consolation prize akin to a rubber dinghy. But instead, their reward after a deserved victory in which they outclassed Middlesbrough is a date with Pep Guardiola and co. Flynn did his coaching badges with the City assistant Mikel Arteta in south Wales and will now welcome the Spaniard, as well as City’s attacking armoury, to his hometown club.
Whatever the result, there was always going to be cause for celebration here, given the managers are both sons of Pillgwenlly, a district of the city the other side of the River Usk. It was Matt Dolan, the former Middlesbrough trainee, that forced a replay 10 days ago, meaning Pulis – who has managed in excess of 1,000 matches – faced Newport in the city where he grew up for the first time. The hero in the previous round, Dolan again began on the bench against Boro, who made five changes from their league win at West Brom. The lashing rain made life interesting on a pitch that is also home to two rugby union sides, Newport RFC and the Gwent Dragons, with this the 59th match to take place at Rodney Parade this season.
Newport were unfazed by the growing pool of surface water, making a barnstorming start. Boro were, by contrast, stuck in the mud. The referee Stuart Attwell should have awarded the hosts an early penalty too, but waved away appeals when Adam Clayton handballed a cross into the box by Regan Poole, the former Newport defender now on loan from Manchester United.
Other than when Jordan Hugill rattled the post after 17 minutes, Boro struggled to contain a Newport team 56 places below them in the Football League and one that clearly had the appetite for another cup upset, with Leicester City and Leeds United among their scalps over the past 12 months. This last time last year, Newport were preparing to head to Wembley for a fourth-round replay against Tottenham Hotspur and they played with the same gusto that has served them so well in this competition of late.
Somehow Boro headed down the tunnel at the interval with the score goalless but, as far as Newport were concerned, it was not for the want of trying. Dishevelled, especially defensively, Pulis handed Adam Clayton a note inside half an hour, presumably asking his players to raise their game. Dimi Konstantopoulos, the 40-year-old Middlesbrough goalkeeper making only his fourth start of the season, was kept extremely busy, with Newport’s delivery from wide areas causing havoc. Poole’s cross evaded both Joss Labadie and Jamille Matt before Amond went even closer as Boro continued to live dangerously, powering a diving header at goal only for his effort to be repelled by Konstantopoulous.
Pulis unsurprisingly tweaked personnel at the break, introducing Rajiv van La Parra, but before the winger had time to get his bearings Newport finally had the ball in the net. Willmott charged towards the opposition box from deep with Amond for company, though the winger did not need him. Willmott dropped his shoulder to buy himself another yard of space as Boro backed off, with his swerving shot eluding Konstantopoulos, who could only get a weak right hand to it. Newport were deservedly in front, Boro in trouble – and still to register a shot on target – prompting Pulis to throw on Rudy Gestede and Ashley Fletcher.
As the rain continued to pour, things soon went from bad to worse for Boro when Newport doubled their lead after 67 minutes. Boro were easily bamboozled by a training-ground corner routine, with Amond darting to the front post to bury Willmott’s inswinging ball. Boro’s players looked at one another for answers as Amond ran off, sparking delirium among the home fans.
As Newport’s players basked in their finest hour, reaching the fifth round for the first time since 1948-49, their goalkeeper Joe Day ran straight down the tunnel with other matters to attend to. His wife, Lizzie, went into labour during the match, so Day, who missed Newport’s trip to the Riverside awaiting the arrival of twins, headed for the hospital. – Guardian service
Other FA Cup fourth round results
Brentford 3 Barnet 1
Queen’s Park Rangers 2 Portsmouth 0