Millwall's great run in the Championship is on the back burner as the most famous domestic competition in the world, the FA Cup is back this weekend. Millwall's back was pulled out of the hat in this home fixture with League Two side, Newport County.
Gary Rowett's men are the talk of the division at the moment, and after a shaky start under previous manager Neil Harris, find themselves just outside the promotion places on goal difference. Aside from the defeat prior to the Christmas period against Barnsley, Rowett has got the Lions back to being a tough team to break down and defeat, and this will be a tall ask for the side from South Wales. The Exiles have had a roller coaster history and had to reform in 1989 after going out of business, but they have re-established themselves as a steady Football League outfit again and find themselves comfortably in mid-table in the English fourth tier.
Millwall have never faced off against the Phoenix version of this club, but in the only FA Cup meeting against the previous incarnate, the Lions were victorious. Although a couple of divisions above and in good form, the South London side will not take Newport lightly, as the visitors have a respectable pedigree in the knockout competition.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 3-0 Newport County, Saturday 13th January 1973 – The only FA Cup game between the two prior to this weekend resulted in a comfortable home win for the Lions and progression through to the next round of the competition. A first half goal from Dennis Burnett in the 38th minute was followed by two second half strikes from Derek Smethurst and Alf Wood and saw the 10,000+ in attendance leave The Den happy and salivating over who Benny Fenton's side would get in the next round.
As this is an FA Cup game, expect a lot of squad rotation from Gary Rowett. Ben Thompson is likely to be out for the remainder of the season after his injury he sustained against Derby County at the beginning of December. Ryan Leonard and Tom Elliott remain out of contention.
Mark O'Brien and Micky Demetriou are pushing for starts, but The Exiles will be without loanee Danny McNamara, as he will be cup tied against his parent club.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
A player who was quickly being seen as a forgotten member of the Lions squad, Mahoney came right back into Gary Rowett's plans with a bang. A glorious goal to help Millwall take the lead against Luton Town was followed by a world class cross to set up Matt Smith, and the winger will be keen to continue this good run in the cup. With a precise left foot and bags of potential, it will be a long afternoon for the side from South Wales if the wide man is on his day.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Are Ya?', we sit down with both Caitlin Bennett and Marc, two loyal and passionate Newport County fans. This week we ask the pair how they think the season is going in League Two, will there be a push to the play-offs, how Newport fans are viewing this fixture and what they think the score will be.
1. It’s been a respectable start for Newport at the moment and you currently find yourself comfortably in mid table in 14th place. How is the season going from your point of view?
C: We started the season really well and we were holding our own near the top of the table against the tough sides in this league. Our football wasn’t pretty, but the results are what matter. Then, we had a few big injuries and just lost momentum. It’s been hard going without a win since October after such a good start. League Two is so competitive this year, but we need to be doing better.
M: Well at the start of the season it was really enjoyable. Winning games and winning ugly at times. The best way to win in my eyes! However we’ve now gone 10 games in the league without a win and it’s absolutely been an ache to watch. Injuries absolutely haven’t helped us at all but then again, it’s a hurdle that faces most clubs.
2. You are currently nine points off the play-offs and as everyone knows, all you need is a good run and you’ll be up in contention. Do you think a decent transfer window in January could see you push up the table?
C: I think January is going to be very important for us considering our recent form. We realised our potential last year after reaching the play-off final and a few good signings could see us there again. We have two games in hand, so we have to be optimistic coming into January and believe the right decisions will be made.
M: Certainly a good transfer window can help us, but on the other hand it’s all dependent on how quick we can work out an effective dynamic. We absolutely can make it into the play offs. We aren’t the only team who will go through a ‘free-fall’ stage this season. For me, I fee that March is the time where the league has its twists, where the pressure is on clubs to perform!
3. Newport have a great recent history with the FA Cup, how do the fans see this competition?
C: County fans love the FA Cup. This competition has put our name on the map for the last two seasons and it has been incredible. We worked hard and earned ourselves the title of ‘Giant Killers’ two years in a row. Michael Flynn and our players received the recognition they truly deserved. The campaign has impacted the entire city and you could see how much it meant to everyone that little old Newport County had its name in lights. We are very proud. The FA Cup is magical.
M: Tell me about it! In the last 5 years we’ve made the 3rd round at a minimum 4 times. The first 4 times since our reform! Fortunately the potential of a good third round tie has almost always gone our way. Our fans are always up for the draw, in any round. Honestly it excites all of us. Whether that be a trip to the 9th tier of football or an away trip to Middlesbrough! It’s always an exciting time. The benefits it gives to the club are amazing. It makes us more of an attractive club, increases our wealth and increases the value of our players.
4. The Exiles currently have Danny McNamara on loan, how is the young Lion getting on?
C: Danny McNamara has been brilliant for us. The amount of game time he is getting speaks for itself. He is only young, but is an intelligent and very talented player. He’s so calm and collected on the ball. I would love to keep hold of him.
M: Personally, I like Danny. Right now he may not be at his best - but none of the team are fully at their best right now. However class is permanent and form is temporary. He’s been quite the asset for us at points of the season from my point of view.
5. Padraig Amond has an impressive ten goals and two assists so far this season, how important is he to your club?
C: Padraig Amond is a fan favourite. He means the world to our club. His goals and assists speak for themselves, but he really gives everything week in, week out. A lot of people know him for being the FA Cup’s top scorer last year, which is an unbelievable achievement, but aside from the Cup, he is a special player. He is undoubtedly one of the best goal scorers that we’ve had at Newport and he always plays a big part.
M: In all my time watching Newport for over a decade now, I’ve never seen such a perfect example of a centre forward. Agile, exciting, improviser, poacher, goalscorer. What else do you want in your striker? Hopefully he can score his 9th goal in 9 rounds on Saturday!
6. Which player(s) do Millwall need to look out for?
C: It has to be Amond because of his history in this competition. As I mentioned, he was the highest scoring player in the Cup last year and has scored in every game in the campaign so far this season. He can make a goal out of nothing and is a threat against any side.
M: Absolutely watch out for Jamille Matt. Good in the air. Probably one of our better players despite the stats. A Dark Horse May be a good way of describing him. George Nurse is up there aswell, 2 man of the match performances in the last week, need I go on?!
7. What do you think the score will be?
C: Despite out recent form, I have to take into consideration the impact we have in this competition. My prediction is Newport to win 2-1. You can never doubt the magic of the FA Cup!
M: Millwall 1-1 Newport, I feel like you will get an early goal to assert your dominance. However no team can ever be too comfortable against us in the FA Cup. Goals from Mathieu Smith and Josh Sheehan.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 3-0 NEWPORT COUNTY
There is a lot of magic in the FA Cup and both clubs have been involved in giant killing in the past, but with the form Millwall are in and with the confidence that is building around The Den with recent results, I can only see one winner in this one. A comfortable home win for the Lions and progression to the Fourth Round in South Bermondsey is my prediction.
Come on you Lions.