Mike Flynn says he is proud of the way his Newport County AFC side performed at Wembley despite their 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay.
There were no signs of fear from Flynn’s men against a Premier League side 74 places above them in the English league pyramid, but ultimately that extra quality shone through to send Tottenham through to the Fifth Round where they will go away to Rochdale.
You would have to say that the first goal came slightly against the run of play after a positive County start, with Dan Butler inadvertently hooking the ball into his own net when attempting to clear a cross.
It was the product of some intricate passing play from Spurs through the middle of the field, the ball eventually finding it’s way out-wide for Moussa Sissoko to cross.
That delivery across the face of goal looked destined for an unmarked Fernando Llorente four yards out, with Butler trying his wholehearted best to prevent the cross but unfortunately turning it into his own net.
Spurs found their second on 33 minutes through Erik Lamela’s first club goal in nearly 15 months.
Again it was the product of a cleverly constructed passing move, this time Heung-Min Son expertly skipping past two challenges before setting up Lamela to pass the ball home from just outside the six-yard area.
County certainly didn’t give up after that setback and may have had a goal for their troubles right at the end of the game, Michel Vorm getting down quick to thwart Padraig Amond’s attempt when the Irishman created some space in the box.
But it wasn’t meant to be for Flynn and his squad as they searched for a spot in the Fifth Round for the first time since 1949, although they could feel no shame at being beaten by a side glittered with international names.
And Flynn was certainly not afraid to show his utmost pride towards his players for their performance at Wembley.
He affirmed: “I’m not happy because we’ve just lost a game of football but I’m very proud.
“The amount of effort and the work-rate that the players put in was fantastic.
“I know Spurs missed a few chances in the second-half, but we kept going right to the end and we should have scored.”
A positive for Flynn from the game can be the extremely lively start to the match made by his players.
For the first 25 minutes, County were causing numerous problems to the hosts, including coming inches away from blocking Vorm’s kicks on several occasions.
The first goal did knock the stuffing out of the Exiles somewhat, but Flynn preferred to reflect on that confident start post-match.
“Nobody wants to be embarrassed or trounced,” he admitted.
“And I thought in the first 25-minutes we were the better team.
“And how they scored, don’t get me wrong I watched them warming up and they practised that move during the warm up.
“But how it went in was obviously deflating and it took us ten minutes to get over that.
“Unfortunately then the damage was done.”
Flynn was certainly not going to accept his side’s fait when the scoreline did go to 2-0, preferring to try and mastermind a way back into the contest with some attacking substitutions.
Striker Shawn McCoulsky replaced right-back David Pipe with 23 minutes left to play, while Matty Dolan also came on in an attempt to inject more creativity into the midfield.
And Flynn says it was always his plan to try and find a way back into the game regardless of the score, to try and repay the faith of the 7,200 away fans who travelled to Wembley on a Wednesday night.
He added: “I’m not happy sitting back and thinking let’s get out of here 2-0 down.
“I want to play football in the right way. Okay, it’s difficult at times when you come up against a team with such a big gap.
“But I wanted to go for it, I wanted to make a game out of it and I was just a little bit disappointed at the end that we didn’t score because the players deserved that.
“And the fans would have made a right noise in the corner.”
Those attacking changes did afford County their best chance on the night with seconds left to play, Amond unlucky to see his effort kept out by Vorm in the home goal.
And Flynn admitted that the Irishman was frustrated to have passed up that glorious opportunity.
He continued: “He’s a bit disappointed if I’m honest but everybody has missed chances in their career.
“That’s the kind of lad he is – he’s so honest and you look at the work rate he has put in tonight, he’ll be kicking himself because it’s not very often that you can say that you’ve scored at Wembley.
“Dan Butler has beaten him to it and he can say it!”
Tottenham certainly showed full respect to County on the night by naming a strong line-up from the word go.
Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Kyle Walker-Peters all made their way from the bench late on in the game, as it truly gave the County players a chance to test themselves against some of the world’s best at the home of football.
And Flynn believes that those team selections was an example of how much class and respect Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur showed towards the Exiles over the course of the two games.
He said: “The frustrating thing really is that we didn’t hold on at home.
“It’s always going to be tough here. There’s fantastic players, they get in the top six in the Premier League every year and they are in the Champions League.
“I was looking when they were bringing on Eriksen and Deli Alli and I was thinking – will you have a night off Mauricio?
“Rest a few and get them ready for Arsenal. But I think that shows the class they have got.
“Class club, class manager and class players.”
Asked to reflect on the occasion as a whole, Flynn elected to praise the phenomenal support from the travelling fans who didn’t stop singing throughout the entirety of the game.
“I’ll look back and I’ll be very proud,” he admitted.
“It’s an unbelievable occasion for the club, not just the money but over 7,000 fans have travelled from Newport today on a weeknight.
“And I’m hearing that it’s the highest away following at Spurs.
“That’s an unbelievable achievement from our fans, it was just unfortunate that we didn’t score at the end because that would have been a nice thank-you to them.”
The club and Flynn were boosted on the morning of the game with the news that he would be prolonging his stay with the Exiles.
A year extension to Flynn’s contract was agreed ahead of the game, taking his deal to the summer of 2020.
And Flynn was keeping it no secret of his pride in securing a new deal with the club.
“Well I’m obviously delighted,” he affirmed.
“It shows the board appreciate me. The hard work has paid off, not just mine but my staff as-well.
“And it allows us now to plan properly for the future.
“I think it’s a big boost for the players because there are one or two that we want to re-sign and stay. Hopefully now they’ve seen the manager do it, it may help them sign and get it over the line.”
He continued: “I said I want to build a club here and not just a team.
“The signing of this deal allows me to do that as-well and it allows us to put better foundations in.
“And if we can keep increasing this fan base then it’s only going to be beneficial for the club and the players.
“I’m hoping this cup run brings back a generation of fans because we lost them when we went out of business.”
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was also full of praise for the spirit shown by Newport County AFC across both games.
And the Argentinian hopes that the relationship built with Flynn could help the clubs moving forward.
“The competition is unreal you know because it is magic,” he said.
“It put the two teams at the same level because of the motivation and it’s a different circumstance.
“It is very difficult to assess because we win against Manchester United and draw with Liverpool at Anfield, but Newport lose against Lincoln and Colchester.
“After a couple of years, you know that the competition is magic because of that. But of course, I wish all the best to Newport and I hope they win games.
“I hope they fight to try to be in the play-offs for League One.
“Our relationship is fantastic and now I am going to share a glass of wine with Michael and all his staff.”
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AFTER THAT| We are away at Mansfield on Tuesday 13th February. Tickets will be available on the gate.