ANY Newport County AFC fans who made the 550-mile round-trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday will still be filled with the romance of the cup, and a potential fifth-round home tie with Premier League champions Manchester City will only have intensified that feeling.

But it’s back to the cold, wet, harsh reality of life in League Two tonight.

County host relegation-threatened Port Vale at Rodney Parade with former Exiles loan star Mark Harris no doubt desperate to prove a point after joining the Staffordshire outfit last week.

It’s the start of a hectic few weeks for Michael Flynn’s men, who dropped to 14th in the table while they were battling to a superb 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

County are now the only fourth-tier side left in the cup and, with December’s postponement against MK Dons also factored in, they have played fewer games than anyone else in the division.

That means the have two or three games in hand over many of their rivals and it makes for a frantic February fixture list.

County head back to the North East to take on Grimsby Town at the weekend before welcoming Middlesbrough to Rodney Parade for the cup replay.

They then host Mansfield Town, MK Dons and Swindon Town before going to Notts County and Milton Keynes.

And if they beat Boro next week, the Swindon match will also have to be rearranged as County prepare for the visito of Pep Guardiola's superstars and a first fifth-round tie in the FA Cup since 1949.

That schedule tells you why Flynn is so keen to add to his squad before the transfer window closes on Thursday night.

“Lennie Lawrence will tell you that usually cup runs mean league failure, unless you’re one of the big boys and you can afford to play a totally different team and you can keep everybody fresh,” said the manager after the 1-1 draw on Teesside.

“We found that out [last season] and we’ve got a small squad this season.

“I’m looking to try to add a couple more before the window closes, just to keep everybody on their toes and to freshen it up.

“It’s a tough schedule now, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.”

South Wales Argus:

County found life very tough in the league after taking Tottenham Hotspur to a fourth-round replay at Wembley last season.

They were within eight minutes of beating Spurs at a packed Rodney Parade before Harry Kane cancelled out Padraig Amond’s opener.

The Exiles then held the Premier League giants to a respectable 2-0 defeat in the replay but the high-profile matches, both live on BT Sport, took a big toll on the players.

Flynn’s men picked up only one victory in their next 11 matches in League Two and slipped from fifth in the table on January 19 to a lowly 13th by April 7.

“We were in a great position until the FA Cup game and the first game took so much out of us,” recalled Ben Tozer, who left for Cheltenham Town last summer.

“I’d say it took us about four days to recover – mentally, physically and emotionally, we were gone.

“To then go to Wembley, we needed a break really, which didn’t happen and we hit a downward spiral from there.

“We had upwards momentum, but it fizzled out after the cup games, unfortunately. It was a successful season in some ways, but frustrating in others.”

This season’s FA Cup adventure is not yet over, but Flynn, Lawrence and Wayne Hatswell know they have a big job on their hands to get the team back in the race for the play-offs.

That’s why it’s so crucial that some new blood is injected into the squad this week.

And the sudden departure of Antoine Semenyo, who was recalled by his parent club Bristol City on Sunday after a reported big-money bid from Chelsea, means it will be an even busier week than planned in the transfer market.

Semenyo is a big loss and it’s hard to see another loan player coming in and making as big an impact as he did.

As I wrote last week, I’m not convinced that a move to Stamford Bridge is the best idea for him right now but good luck to him.

The teenager has been a joy to watch on the pitch and a pleasure to deal with off it and he certainly has the potential to make it all the way to the top if he makes the right moves at the right time.

Whoever Flynn does manage to land this week has big shoes to fill.

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