We’re all feeling tense, and with good reason. Sunday is a massive game in Wrexham’s history, and a massive game in the context of our immediate future. That’s not the main reason why I’m developing sweaty palms though. Newport are good. That’s what worries me.
It’s not just their ability which worries me; it’s their spirit. A few weeks ago I had a look at the fixture lists of the title contenders (there were five back then, would you believe it!) and suggested that Newport had no chance because their ludicrous back-up of matches would bring them to their knees. I even said that if they won the title against those sort of odds, I’d tip my hat to them.
Well, they didn’t sustain a title challenge, but despite twice having to play three games in a week in the closing stages and being forced to fulfil their home fixtures on a boggy excuse for a pitch, they’ve still maintained enough momentum to finish third and overwhelm Grimsby in the semi-final.
The draw was perhaps kind to them: I think The Mariners, for all their good qualities, were probably the side you’d most want to face in the semi-finals. Kidderminster were the form team, of course, we’d marshalled our resources and expectations very cleverly and were in a better shape than an outsider would think, and Newport had shown the sort of characteristics their manager Justin Edinburgh personifies and shown grit and determination.
Grimsby, however, had wobbled after reaching the FA Trophy Final, didn’t really turn up on the day at Wembley and looked a little more vulnerable, hoping the returning Liam Hearn would be able to give them a bit of a spark. The season lasted ten games too many for them, and to be honest I was cautiously optimistic at the thought of a rematch under the arch.
Newport, though, are hard-boiled. Okay, we beat them at home and performed well in drawing at their place this season, but Kidderminster did the double over us, as we did over Luton last season. The slate is clean.
We’ve got the confidence of knowing we can turn up at Wembley and perform, having done exactly that five weeks ago, while Newport’s trip there last season was with a side substantially different to the one we’ll face on Sunday.
But Newport are hard-bitten after their battle through the closing period of the season. If it hadn’t been for their pitch they might well have put up a more sustained challenge for the title Edinburgh was given the wherewithal to put together a serious promotion-challenging squad and he recruited wisely. They’re a substantial final obstacle in our path to regained Football League status this season.