Cheltenham's a great incentive, admits Yate manager Rob Cousins
YATE Town manager Rob Cousins insists the lure of a possible derby clash with Cheltenham Town can prove an ideal pick-me-up to his shattered players at Newport County tomorrow night.
The Southern League minnows learned yesterday afternoon that either they or Newport will travel the short distance to take on Cheltenham in the first round of the FA Cup sometime over the weekend of November 3 and 4.
Cousins would dearly love to pit his side against the League Two high-fliers, but knows his Yate battlers first face an enormous task in the shape of tomorrow's fourth qualifying round replay with Conference leaders Newport, who scored two late goals to earn a dramatic 3-3 draw at Lodge Road on Saturday.
Cousins, who can at least add back-from-suspension defender/midfielder Jake Cox to his ranks tomorrow, said: "It's great to see our name in the hat and matched against a League club, and Cheltenham away would be a fantastic experience for the lads. From a personal viewpoint, it would be nice as I know their manager Mark Yates, having played against him many times, and their physio Ian Weston.
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"There is that incentive for us now but I am just wary about how much Saturday's exertions will have taken out of our players, and the fact we went so close to going through.
"We had a players' night out in Bristol on Saturday and all they could do was relive the little moments that might have proved costly. But they can be proud of themselves."
Yate's long-serving secretary Terry Tansley added: "We have to be realistic about our chances of playing Cheltenham because Newport are overwhelming favourites to go there.
"But we were gratified by the amount of local people who turned up to support us on Saturday and it's my big hope that they liked what they saw and will come back to see us on a more regular basis."
Cousins had experienced giantkilling acts as a player with Bath City, Yeovil Town and Paulton Rovers in bygone years. But he knew an improbable victory over Conference pacesetters Newport – three full divisions above Yate on the football pyramid – would cap the lot.
Now, after seeing many of his battle-weary players collapse to the ground in abject disappointment at the final whistle, Cousins knows he will need to deliver the most stirring pre-match team talk of his short managerial career before tomorrow night's replay.
Reflecting on Saturday's match, Cousins said: "We'd have taken a replay before the game, but we went so close to an upset and it's going to be a big job picking the players up for Tuesday night.
"Fatigue set in at the end; tired minds; and we just didn't challenge their man (Tony James). No one attacked the ball from the corner and they scored (the equaliser) from it.
"Everyone is deflated, but hopefully Newport will think the job is done and some complacency will creep in that we can exploit. Whatever the outcome the lads can hold their heads high."
Yate assistant Michael Meaker is, however, relishing locking horns again with an "old friend", Newport boss Justin Edinburgh.
"He marked me many times when he was with Spurs and I was at QPR," he said. "Yes, they (Newport) got out of jail and there was a feeling of devastation in our dressing room after, but the boys have done Yate and Bristol proud."
Yate right-back Tom Warren said: "We could have been four or five goals down at half-time and yet we could have found ourselves 4-1 up in the second half, such was our dominance. We showed what we're capable of doing and the lads have to go to Newport believing we can win."
The Lodge Road club had already banked £16,750 from the best FA Cup run in their history and were a whisker away from pocketing another £12,500 on Saturday. Newport will be even hotter favourites to progress tomorrow night now they are on home territory, although philosophical Yate chairman Colin Pick said: "There will be a decent crowd there and we stand to collect half the gate money. I'm absolutely delighted with what took place here on Saturday. We're still in the competition and I would certainly have taken that before the game."
Tomorrow's replay means Yate's scheduled home league match with Cinderford will be rearranged.