MILLWALL face Newport in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, hoping to begin another run like that which saw the Lions reach last season’s quarter-finals.
Newport progressed to the fifth round in 2018-19 having beaten Middlesbrough and Leicester.
The Welsh side are languishing in mid-table in League Two after last season’s impressive run to the play-offs, with former Lion Tom King and Den loaner Danny McNamara in their ranks this season. However, McNamara does not have permission to play against his parent club.
Lucas Ball spoke to Caitlin Bennett ahead of the match.
Why do you support Newport?
I remember my first County game in the 2010-11 season – I had to go with my dad and my brother because my mum was working away from home.
I just loved the atmosphere. I remember asking my dad if I could go with him again the week after and I’ve been going ever since. They’re my local side who I’ve supported through thick and thin – and I can’t imagine it any other way.
What’s been your favourite season following Newport?
It has to be 2012-13. Beating Welsh rivals Wrexham 2-0 at Wembley for promotion back to the Football League after a 24-year absence was something special.
Justin Edinburgh made us dream again and all of our players were magical. Good times.
And the worst?
2016-17 was a difficult season. We were 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table in March, no thanks to Graham Westley. We thought we were sunk.
Despite Flynny’s [Michael Flynn] appointment and our Great Escape, it was a tough year for County fans.
After reaching the play-off final, expectations would’ve been higher this season – what’s gone wrong?
To me, the play-off final definitely wasn’t us overachieving, so we would like to be doing better.
We didn’t start the season playing good football, but we were getting results and that’s what matters.
Since October, we’ve been hard to watch. We’ve had a number of big injuries, the cup comes into play and we’ve just lost momentum.
It’s hard to take when we were in the mix with the likes of Swindon, Exeter and Crewe, but everyone else has really kicked on. League Two is so competitive this year, but we haven’t won a game since October – we have to be doing better.
What needs to change in January?
January is about building our team up again. It’s going to be a very important window for us, considering our form.
There are arguments for improvement in defence, midfield and up top. I think people mainly want to see a new striker and more midfield options. We proved at the start of the season that when our defenders are fully fit, they’re great.
How is former Millwall man Tom King doing in south Wales?
Tom King has been fantastic for us. His plethora of clean sheets is the reason he got called up for Wales.
There were rumours of a bust-up with Flynn, but they were put to bed, and now he’s back playing we’ve looked better already.
What about loaner Danny McNamara?
Danny McNamara was a great signing for County. He’s only 21, but he’s so calm and collected on the ball. He’s a smart player and him getting so much game-time proves it. I’d love to keep hold of him.
Who will be the danger men for Michael Flynn’s side on Saturday?
It’s the FA Cup, so it would be wrong of me to not say Padraig Amond. He was the top scorer in this competition last season (five, with Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus) and he’s scored in every FA Cup game so far this season. At his best, he’s a threat against anyone.
If you could sign one Millwall player, who would it be and why?
I’d take Jed Wallace. He can create goals and score them and that’s exactly what our current team needs. He’s not too bad at free-kicks either.
What are your thoughts on Gary Rowett?
You have to admire the job Gary Rowett has done since his appointment. He has transformed a side that finished one place above the relegation zone to play-off hopefuls.
His decision-making is brilliant – it seems like he really knows his team and gets on really well at the club. He’s worked wonders already.
What’s your predicted Newport starting XI?
We’ve drawn our last two games keeping the same starting XI and formation, but because it’s the FA Cup, I think Amond will feature.
Mickey Demetriou came off injured in our last game against Cheltenham – I hope it’s just a knock and he’ll be fit for the weekend.
4-4-2: King; O’Brien, Demetriou, Inniss, Haynes; Bennett, Nurse, Sheehan, Labadie; Amond, Abrahams
We usually play Scot Bennett as CDM and Joss Labadie as CAM, however, instead of a regular 4-4-2.
Will you be at the game?
Unfortunately not. I have family plans as it’s the New Year.
But credit to everyone travelling to The Den. It’s going to be an early start – I think coaches are leaving at around 6:30am. I have no doubt that our fans will make an impact.
Finally, a score prediction?
Despite our current form, I have to take into consideration the presence we have in this competition.
I’ll say Newport to win 2-1. You can never doubt the magic of the FA Cup.
Image: Millwall FC