On Saturday, Mark and I head south again – we’re yet to go north (Clipstone was too near to home to be classed as ‘north’) – as our Quest team Newport County head to north Londoners Barnet for an all-important Emirates FA Cup Round Two match.
The winner of the tie progresses to the Third Round which, for some, especially for League Two sides, can be seen as ‘Their Cup Final’ if they pull out one of the big boys. Yes, after starting this Quest in August with South Normanton Athletic, we’re now just one game away from the third round draw; a huge date in English football’s calendar.
But first, there’s a game to be played, and it shall be played at Barnet’s swish ‘The Hive’ stadium near Canons Park, north London. Opened in 2009 by Sir Trevor Brooking and then England manager Fabio Capello, The Hive is tailor-made for The Bees. With a capacity of just over 5,000, the ground is neither too big nor too small for the club, who average around 2,100 supporters for home games.
They moved from their tired, sloping Underhill stadium in the summer of 2013, meaning that they moved out of their home borough of Barnet into the neighbouring borough of Harrow. In fact, the ground was originally planned to be the home of nearby Harrow club Wealdstone when the foundations where made back in 2004.
So if nothing else, at least we know we’ll be watching the game in a decent little ground complete with swanky bars selling beer at inflated prices.
But that’s enough about Barnet for now, as we’re ‘Supporting The Port’. Newport’s 4-1 victory over non-league Brackley Town in the First Round replay means that our allegiance lies with the Welsh club, who are expected to bring a sizeable support with them from south Wales.
Whether Goldie Lookin’ Chain – staunch County fans – or Newport-founded indie band Feeder will be in attendance is unconfirmed at the time of writing.
Newport are currently enjoying a bit of form, and are unbeaten in 9 games, including the two against Brackley. You have to go back to the 1-0 home defeat to Portsmouth on October 17th for their last defeat, as John Sheridan slowly but surely continues to turn things around at Rodney Parade following Terry Butcher’s departure.
Their last game, a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Luton Town at Rodney Parade, will see them brimming with confidence. However, 19-year-old Swansea loanee Oliver McBurnie – who scored all three goals against The Hatters – is ineligible, as his parent club don’t want him cup tied with him due to return to the Liberty Stadium at the beginning of January.
“He’s not our player and it’s not our decision. Swansea have said he can’t play,” County boss John Sheridan told the BBC this week.
“I knew that at the beginning of the week anyway so I’ve planned for it.”
Whatever plans they have, they’ll know that Barnet have failed to win any of their last four matches, and with only two points separating the sides in League Two, it promises to be a tight affair. Although this is the Cup, so anything could happen.
Anyway, we’ll be at The Hive tomorrow. Newport fans: if you hear two English accents amongst you, be kind, it’ll be Mark and I ‘Supporting the Port’.