Jamille Matt insists Newport County can once again deliver the one-off knockout blow to put his team into a Wembley play-off final.
The County striker was goal-scoring hero when County dumped Leicester City out of the FA Cup in January and now the League Two play-off semi-finals have reached the do-or-die stage.
Newport go to Mansfield this evening (6.00) level at 1-1 after the first leg and Matt says: “We always knew the League is our bread-and-butter, because it’s over 46 games.
“When we had our FA Cup run, people suggested it was the peak for us, to play against those big clubs, and they were specials moments.
“But the play-offs are about moving up, long term. We’re not here to make up the numbers. We want to compete and win through to the final.”
Matt has scored 20 goals for Newport since joining on a free transfer from Blackpool last summer.
He and Padraig Amond – scorer of County’s equaliser at Rodney Parade – have now managed 43 between them and will provide the biggest threat to David Flitcroft’s Stags.
County boss Michael Flynn – who visited Anfield two months ago to spend a day shadowing Jurgen Klopp – believes his team have the upper hand even if they go away without an advantage.
“That’s 11 games unbeaten, now, which is a good record and so all the pressure is on them,” says Flynn.
“We finished the first leg the stronger and we’ll pick a team to go there and cause them problems.”
It wasn’t required, but some friction burns emerged post-match in midweek, caused by controversial decisions by referee Charles Breakspear and Flitcroft is happy to fan the flames.
“There was talk of Newport taking a two-goal lead into the second game. But we looked threatening and like we had intent,” said the Mansfield manager.
“Our goal, for me, deserved to win the first tie. It hasn’t but we go back north knowing that fight and passion we’ve had most of the season was evident.”
CJ Hamilton’s unstoppable drive put the Stags in the driving seat inside 15 minutes on Thursday evening, but, in the true spirit of the play-offs, late drama ensued.
Visiting goalkeeper Conrad Logan had kept his side in the tie on numerous occasions, but his rash challenge on Ade Azeez saw the Exiles awarded a penalty late on; Amond’s initial spot-kick was saved, but the Irish striker scored his 23rd goal in 57 games this season on the rebound, leaving the tie finely-poised.
Matt Preston remains on the sidelines for Mansfield. The centre-back sustained a second concussion of the season in the promotion-decider at MK Dons on the final day, which also ruled him out of the 1-1 first leg draw at Rodney Parade.
Ben Turner will continue to deputise in defence, while Willem Tomlinson, Malvind Benning and Jorge Grant are ready to come into the starting line-up if boss Flitcroft looks to rotate his squad – who have not won in any of their last four matches.
Goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik (knee ligaments), striker Craig Davies (ankle), defender Hayden White (broken leg) and midfielder Jordan Graham (knee) are all unavailable.
Newport captain Joss Labadie will hope to return to the starting line-up for the trip to the One Call Stadium.
The midfielder missed the last six matches of the regular season with a gashed ankle but came on to play the final 18 minutes of the first leg.
Flynn has named the same starting XI for the last three games but could recall Labadie as they push for a play-off final place at Wembley on May 25. Former Wales international midfielder Andrew Crofts is also staking a claim for his first start since December 29.