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COMMEMORATIVE SHIRT | Newport County's road to European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final against Carl Zeiss Jena

23 February 2021

Newport County's road to the European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final under the guidance of Len Ashurst is still widely talked about today.

County, who were then playing in the Third Division and known as the Ironsides, secured passage to the competition following a 5-1 aggregate victory over Shrewsbury Town in the 1980 Welsh Cup final, which was then played over two legs.

The club’s European adventure began with a 4-0 win over Irish side Crusaders in the first round of the competition before throwing up a surprise in the second round courtesy of a 6-0 triumph against Norwegian outfit SK Haugar.

The run to the quarter-final, which saw County avoid European giants Benfica, Feyenoord and Dinamo Tblisi, brought the club into the limelight, with many interested in the journey to the latter stages of the competition.

Ashurst’s side were handed a date with East German First Division outfit Jena, who had overcome holders Valencia and Roma in previous rounds, in the last eight.  

200 dedicated County supporters made the trip behind the Iron Curtain to Ernst Abbe Stadium to witness the first leg of the quarter-final, which saw the visitors claim a shock 2-2 draw against the Germans. Tommy Tynan - a prolific goalscorer during his time in south Wales - notched two goals as County twice came from behind to set up an exciting second leg encounter in Newport.

18,000 packed out Somerton Park for the second leg two weeks later on 18 March 1981, but a first-half goal from defender Lothar Kurbjuweit proved to be enough to bring County’s European adventure to an end. Despite throwing everything at the visitors in search of an equaliser, Jena goalkeeper Hans-Ulrich Grapenthin to thank for keeping the hosts at bay.

Carl Zeiss Jena’s players later admitted that they endured one of their most difficult European nights at County’s old stomping ground, but friendships were forged between both clubs on that historic day.

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