NEWPORT County AFC director Kevin Ward is relishing a fourth trip to Wembley in seven years today and he believes the club has very little to lose as they battle it out with Tranmere Rovers for a place in League One.

Unlike the 2013 Conference play-off final and the dramatic conclusion of the Great Escape from relegation against Notts County in 2017, both Ward and manager Michael Flynn are adamant that the pressure is off for the Exiles this afternoon.

Flynn has been clear that reaching the League Two play-off final means the club is ahead of progress but, while the showdown with Rovers could be seen as a bonus, that does not diminish the determination to win and grab promotion with both hands.

“I think this occasion is massive for the club and for the city as a whole,” said Ward, the former editor of the South Wales Argus.

“If you look at the strides we’ve taken as a club over the last two-and-a-half seasons, we’ve gone from being almost relegation certainties to being in with a chance of reaching the third tier of English football.

“It’s a huge game and one of the key things about being in League One is that you’re two divisions away from being in non-league football so there is that kind of buffer, I suppose.

“We’ve got a really relaxed bunch of players and the team spirit is as good as I’ve seen,” he added.

“And, in many ways, you could say we haven’t got a lot to lose because many people outside this club didn’t think we’d be there.

“There was definitely more pressure in 2013 because getting up and out of non-league after 25 years was enormous.

“It’s a very tough league to get out of and if you miss your chance, it doesn’t always come around again quickly.

“And the Great Escape was fantastic, but it’s not something we really want to celebrate.

“The stakes were higher then as well because the club would have been in a very different place if we’d gone down that day.”

County will be backed by more than 10,000 fans at the home of English football and many more will be watching on the big screen at Rodney Parade and in the pubs and clubs around the city.

“It’s going to be a great day for Newport,” said Ward. “The club has put the city on the map this season with the FA Cup run.

“Last season was great but this season has been even better with the teams we’ve beaten and bringing Man City to Rodney Parade.

“And now we’re at Wembley again. You’ve got to enjoy it because we might not get another cup run like that for 20 years, and we might not get to Wembley again any time soon.

“You’ve got to enjoy it while it’s here and make the most of it.

“Hopefully the fans will do that but whoever you are – a fan, a player, the manager, or a member of the board – you want to win.”

And would the club be ready to operate in League One next season, if they secure victory today?

“I take the view that if we’re promoted, then we’re ready,” said Ward.

“I remember the same question being asked when we came up from the Conference and, six years later, we’re still a Football League club.

“We’re more ready to be a League One club now than we would have been to be back in the Conference two seasons ago.

“Nobody is going to expect us to go into League One and challenge for the title, but there’s no reason why we can’t survive.

“You look at examples like Accrington and Fleetwood – it’s perfectly doable.”