A spirited and resolute performance at the Riverside against Championship outfit Middlesbrough proves Newport County AFC can mix it with the very best in the country, according to Exiles goalkeeper Nick Townsend.
With Joe Day staying at home to be with his wife Lizzie whilst they await the birth of their twin daughters, Townsend came straight in to the team and pulled off a number of impressive saves to ensure County had the opportunity to get their last-gasp equaliser.
A solid defensive performance ensured Middlesbrough didn’t register a shot on target in the first-half, but Townsend was almost immediately called into action after the restart to tip a deflected Britt Assombalonga shot around his near post.
Townsend also denied powerful attempts from Lewis Wing and George Saville but was powerless to stop Daniel Ayala heading home from a corner-kick on 51 minutes.
County were not going down without a fight and continued to bombard the Middlesbrough penalty area, Antoine Semenyo came close twice, as did Joss Labadie, but no equaliser could be found.
Four additional minutes were added. County had one final chance. Step up, Boro boy Matty Dolan in the dying embers to smash home amidst a goalmouth scramble and cause pandemonium in the away end – where 40 of his friends and family were in attendance – as the Exiles did it again in the Emirates FA Cup.
Here, you can read what Townsend exclusively told iFollow Exiles upon the conclusion of the game in Teesside.
On the draw with Middlesbrough in the Emirates FA Cup…
"Middlesbrough are a big club and this result is what the Emirates FA Cup is all about really.
"We are a League Two club and we’ve come up to Middlesbrough of the Championship and shown that we can step up to the mark and that we are all good players.
"I’ve played with Ashley Fletcher up at Barnsley so I kind of knew what he was about. I played here last season [for Barnsley] so I knew what a tough test it was a going to be anyway.
"But when the team sheet did come out, I thought it was a strong front-three, but to be fair to our defence and our midfield, we were solid against them.
"Middlesbrough’s team wasn’t a weak side at all. But at the same time, we’re a strong team and when we click together, we are up there.
"As a squad, we don’t know how to lose these games. We are a resilient team and it shows when we train, we can have arguments with each other, but it’s only because we want to improve ourselves and push the team in the right direction.
"We push each other on and we’re going to keep pushing everyone on because we need to progress in the replay now."
On deputising for Joe Day and making his 8th appearance of the campaign at the Riverside…
"I thought it went well considering I hadn’t really played in a while.
"It was, of course, going to be difficult getting straight back into it, seeing how the game goes and rotates, so it was all about making sure I was concentrating throughout the game.
"I fully enjoyed it because it was the first game in a long time that I felt comfortable and really enjoyed it. I had a solid back four in-front of me and they all know their jobs very well.
"I tried to help with organisation and communication but I thought the defence, and the whole team to be fair, were excellent.
"I’m happy with my own performance. The whole team in general was unreal and arguably unlucky not to get a win."
On former Middlesbrough academy graduate Matty Dolan getting the stoppage time equaliser for the Exiles…
"I was buzzing for Matty to get the goal against the club he grew up playing for as a youngster.
"When he got told he wasn’t starting, he was a bit frustrated obviously, but he kept his head, he’s a good lad around the dressing room and he deserves his goal.
"Getting the goal in the last minute for us is massive and I’m buzzing for him. He had a lot of friends and family coming to the game, so it was massive for him.
"I think it’s the dream story for him – coming back and scoring for against the team he used to play for with all his friends and family here.
"It looks an easy finish for Matty but you still have to put the ball into the back of the net with just seconds remaining. It’s massive what he’s done, you watch Soccer AM all the time and see players miss easy chances but to be fair to Matty he’s got in the box and put into the net."
On the 1,200 County supporters who travelled to Teesside…
"It’s an unbelievable support to be fair. That’s probably why we got the goal in the end, just because the fans never stopped singing all the way through and they were always behind the team.
"It does give the players a boost, it’s a massive boost. You may not hear it from the outside but on the pitch, it feels like you have a 12th man behind you and it drives you forward as a team.
"I would say our fans definitely out sung the Middlesbrough supporters. All I could hear in the second-half, even when I was down the other end, was our fans singing and spurring us on."
On trying to replicate this performance in the league to try and reinvigorate the play-off push…
"Of course we can still make the play-offs. After this game and the Leicester game, we’re starting to get momentum on the go.
"If we can replicate the performances in the league then the play-offs are definitely a reachable target and we need to beat Port Vale on Tuesday.
"We had a tough game at their place earlier in the season but managed to win and we need the same result at Rodney Parade. It won’t be easy but I think we’ve just got to replicate this performance.
"We’ll have to see what the gaffer says when we all come in on Monday about who starts in goal against Port Vale.
"I want to give him a headache, I think that’s what every player should want to do, and hopefully I’ve done that here. We’ll see how it goes."
*All pictures in this article provided by official club photographer Nicola Johns - @nicnacnoopixs.*
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