Assistant manager Wayne Hatswell says supporters can play their part in helping Newport County AFC take a step closer to Wembley.
900 fans will be in attendance at Rodney Parade on Tuesday evening for the Exiles’ Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final first leg against Forest Green Rovers.
County fans have had to watch on from afar since September with the duration of the regular campaign taking place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Tuesday’s fixture, which has been selected as a pilot event by the Welsh Government, will see fans return to Rodney Parade for the first time since a 1-0 victory over Morecambe 14 months ago.
It will also be the first test event which will have fans present at a stadium in Wales since March 2020.
And Hatswell believes the backing of the Amber Army can fuel County’s promotion hopes.
“I’m hoping it’s going to make a huge difference,” said Hastwell.
“We’ve only experienced crowds once this season which was at Leyton Orient. We didn’t have any away fans, so I think the players are looking forward to having them back because they haven’t been here for 14 months.
“The players are going to soak it up and hopefully that gives them a little bit extra to make a run which could just be the difference.
“I want to hear them getting behind us because I’ve had that feeling throughout my footballing life. You could see on the weekend the influence that it has with the emotion and it means something.
“The players feed off that and I want every one of them to sing high heaven and get behind the lads. That’s what they’ve done in the past and they’ve made it hostile for any opposition team that’s been here before.
“Whether we’ve had 5,000 or 7,000, I know they would do the same with only 900. They’ve got to make up for the ones that aren’t there and I know that will be done.”
It is the second time in the last three seasons that County have found themselves in the play-offs after going all the way to the final in the 2018-19 campaign.
But the Exiles suffered heartache after Connor Jennings’ late winner in extra-time condemned them to a 1-0 defeat against Tranmere Rovers at Wembley.
And Hatswell says the Exiles will be using the experience of missing out on promotion at the final hurdle two seasons ago to spur them on again this term.
“It’s not a nice feeling and it’s not a place you want to be because you work so hard to get there and then you get a kick in the teeth,” added Hatswell.
“You don’t want to bring up that disappointment because we’re a different group and were’ in a different place, so we’ve got to reflect on the positives.
“I’m going to learn from it and I’ve grown as a person because of it. I want that feeling like Leicester had at the weekend when they won. If you’re going to do it, they always say to do it by winning at Wembley via the play-offs because that’s the best feeling.”
County set the pace at the Sky Bet League Two summit for the first half of the season after a flying start to the campaign but had to settle for a place in the play-offs.
But the Exiles, who reached their highest points tally since returning to the Football League, finished two places higher than they did two seasons ago.
And, after going unbeaten in their final five games of the campaign with three wins and two draws, Hatswell says the Exiles will be taking the positives rather than reflecting on missing out on automatic promotion.
“We know it’s going to be tough but we’ve given ourselves a good chance,” he added.
“It’s not a disappointment that we’ve not finished second or third. We’ve had our ups and downs and it’s been a tough season for everyone but we’ve had two cup runs and we’ve got to the play-offs again.
“There aren’t any negatives from this season and we’re going to go into it in full positive mode.”