BY road, rail, air and sea - and combinations thereof - we came.

The Newport County faithful and Exiles day-trippers converged on Wembley in a black and amber mass, comprehensively out-sang the Tottenham Hotspur fans who bothered to turn up on a cold Wednesday evening in north west London, and returned to south Wales with another horde of FA Cup memories to treasure.

Yes, to treasure. Because although County lost this fourth round replay 2-0, and but for the heroics of goalkeeper Joe Day it could have been five or six, this was a tremendous occasion.

County’s travelling support of more than 7,000 was the living embodiment of the phrase ‘hope over expectation’.

However enticing in itself is the prospect of a trip to the so-called home of English football, very few of us who love the game and who live in these parts would choose to attend a match like that purely for a day out and subsequently to be able to tick on the bucket list the box marked ‘been to Wembley’.

It is the hope, so the saying goes, that kills you.

How many of us, roaring County on against Spurs at Rodney Parade a fortnight ago, had begun to hope that, against the odds and under mounting pressure, they would hang onto that 1-0 lead to achieve one of the FA Cup’s most famous giantkillings?

How many of us, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, dared to dream? The vast majority, I’ll wager.

So too did the vast majority travel in hope on Wednesday. Premier League teams given a mighty fright in the backyard of a so-called lower league club rarely get it wrong in replays, and so it went at Wembley.

Spurs were slick, quick and patient. County’s players put in admirable shifts but they were chasing shadows for much of the time. Even so, the opening goal had a huge slice of luck about it, from a Spurs point of view.

That is not to say that a goal wasn’t coming - and of course it was followed moments later by a second - but County had settled into the match at that stage, as far as they were allowed to, and that sort of misfortune against one of the UK’s finest teams is harsh at best.

The Magnificent 7,000 (and a wee bit) went quiet at 2-0, but tasteless half-time beverages (where would football be without them?) and overpriced hot dogs returned the collective roar to our corner of Wembley.

County huffed and puffed. Joe Day and poor finishing conspired to keep the score down, and Padraig Amond passed up the chance to bag a consolation goal at the end.

The post-match mutual appreciation between players, staff and fans was heartfelt, and it was this, the FA Cup romance ended, that provided a much-needed shot of warmth as we filed out into the chill air.

It would be naive to think that County will command a crowd of 7,000 against Forest Green Rovers at Rodney Parade today, however welcome that would be.

But the significance of what has passed during the last month - the willingness to queue for tickets in all that winter’s weather can throw at us, the fervour that made the home matches against Leeds United and Spurs such fabulous, heart-in-mouth, tear-in-eye occasions - should not be underestimated.

Diehards may, indeed have, sneered at the casual fans, the so-called bandwagon jumpers who have ridden the County cup trail.

But they - we - have boosted attendances, contributed to supercharged atmospheres at home and at Wembley, and helped swell the club’s coffers. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the magic of the past few weeks should have been shackled and shared among regulars only? Didn’t think so.

How the FA Cup windfall is invested now assumes the importance of what has gone before, but much of that process is perhaps for the longer term.

More immediately, there is football to be played and lots of it - three League Two matches in eight days, starting today, and 15 league matches during the next three months, nine of them at Rodney Parade.

County may have stuttered a little of late but there’s plenty of time left to mount a promotion challenge and if the automatic places are beyond Michael Flynn’s squad, there’s always the pulse-quickening drama of the play-offs as an alternative. Wembley again, anyone?

I love football. County’s exploits have reinforced that feeling. And despite everything, one might argue that the season really starts here.