By Bob Carbon
The stats are starting to weigh in favour of Newport County already this season and after another stunning giant-killing act at Rodney Parade – this time ousting Watford from the Carabao Cup – they are looking to bigger and better things in round four.
Tonight, they will learn if they will be getting another Premier League side to visit their home fortress as Steve Bruce takes his Newcastle United side to Morecambe in round three.
Having reached the fourth round for the first time in their history thanks to a 3-1 win on Tuesday night, Michael Flynn’s side would love another crack at a top team.
But not just for the kudos of locking horns with a Premier League outfit, but more because it is the kind of tie that might attract the TV cameras.
In these days of games behind closed doors, a live match on Sky TV can be a huge financial benefit to clubs, especially those in League Two.
“We have outplayed a Championship club that has just come down from the Premier League and it was a fantastic performance. I can’t be prouder of my players,” said Flynn after his side’s victory.
Who has the most EFL Cup and #FACup goals since 2018?
Pádraig Amond 13
Sergio Aguero 13
Gabriel Jesus 13
Newport County shocked Championship side Watford to reach the #EFLCup fourth round for the first time.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 23, 2020
“Would we want Newcastle in the next round? Well, yes, because we are more likely to be on Sky TV. I want this football club to reap the benefits of a performance like that.
“We have budgeted to January without fans, but if we have to go beyond that it won’t be comfortable. TV coverage is important.”
Just as important to Flynn at the moment is the new style he has asked his players to adopt.
Matt Dolan is relishing his role in the middle of the back three, wing backs Liam Shephard and Ryan Haynes are roaming in the wide open spaces, and Josh Sheehan is bossing the game in the midfield.
There were 552 passes in the round two win over Cambridge and there were another 390 against Watford.
In the first-half, as Newport raced into a two goal lead, they completely outplayed the visitors.
The only blemish was a penalty conceded in the second half that Adalberto Penaranda hammered home.
So impressed with @NewportCounty last night played some lovely football and should have won by more goals.
— Iwan Roberts (@iwanwroberts) September 23, 2020
With more passes comes more possession and with more possession come more chances. There were 29 shots against Cambridge, but only one goal. This time there were 14 shots and three goals.
Tristan Abrahams followed up his two goals in the win over Swansea City in the opening round by winning and then converting an 18th minute penalty.
Joss Labadie then brilliantly controlled a bouncing ball before hammering it home with his left foot from the edge of the area 10 minutes later and finally Padraig Amond got off the mark with a pin-point strike after being gifted possession on the edge of the Watford area.
Goals, or rather a lack of them, were the biggest problem for Flynn’s side last season, but three strikers are already off the mark and Labadie and Liam Shepherd have also contributed.
“We made five changes, and I know they made a few, but we kept everyone fresh and chomping at the bit. I don’t want anyone getting carried away,” added Flynn.
“We have got a lot more options this season and, hopefully, it will stay like that because it will mean the injuries are down.”
— Gruffydd Thomas (@GruffyddThomas) September 23, 2020
So where does this latest giant-killing act rank in the pecking order of recent cup triumphs for Flynn?
“The FA Cup is still the best cup competition in the world in my eyes, but it is still a huge achievement to have reached the fourth round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in the club’s history having beaten two Championship sides,” said Flynn.
“We drew with Spurs, who went on to reach the Champions League final, and beat Leicester City, who had won the Premier League a few years before, in the FA Cup, so they were big, big games for us.
“It is always nice to beat a team a couple of divisions above you.”
A thoroughly miserable night for Watford’s new Serbian manager Vladimir Ivic was compounded when he saw Stipe Perica sent off for an elbow to the throat of Brandon Cooper in the 88th minute.
“It wasn’t a good performance. We gave a chance to players who didn’t get a chance in the Championship games and we expected a bit more than they showed,” said Ivic.
“It’s not a good result for us. We came to win and not to lose and not in this way – the first 45 minutes were very bad.
“But the main reason we lost is because they played much better than us. It was frustrating, especially the red card at the end.”