THE big day is nearly here for Newport County AFC.

Ever since Harry Kane tapped in the equaliser to earn Tottenham Hotspur a draw at Rodney Parade on January 27, County fans and players alike have been looking forward to the FA Cup fourth round replay at Wembley.

Supporters have once again braved the elements to stand patiently in long queues, with some even camping out overnight to secure their tickets.

And there will be more than 7,000 following their team to the home of English football tomorrow – many for the third time in six years.

But ever since Lincoln City banged in three goals against County last Tuesday the debate has raged over how much of a distraction the Wembley trip has been for the team.

Manager Michael Flynn has dismissed the notion that the cup run has damaged his team’s promotion push in League Two.

He rightly points to the excellent form his side showed before and after beating Leeds United in round three and in the build-up to the original Tottenham tie.

But his case was not helped by a depressingly poor performance at Colchester United on Saturday.

After that defeat Flynn again denied that his players had taken their eye off the ball but he also said that he’d be glad when the replay was “out of the way” and he could concentrate on the league.

Striker Frank Nouble also conceded that the prospect of picking up a 10th yellow card of the season and missing out on playing at Wembley had been playing on his mind.

And defender Mark O’Brien admits in today’s Argus that the cup has affected results in the league over the past week.

“We’ve tried not even thinking about it because, in hindsight, we probably could have done without it [the replay] with the games that we’ve had,” said the Dublin-born defender.

“We’ll go and enjoy the occasion and hopefully get a result but it’s maybe something we could have done without because of the way results have gone recently.

“We’ll enjoy it and then put all our focus back on the league because we know in the changing room that that’s the most important thing we’re trying to achieve this season.”

Back-to-back defeats have seen County slip to 11th in the table – five points below the play-off places – but O’Brien and teammate Ben Tozer insist that the whole squad still believe that promotion is achievable this season.

“If you don’t think you can do it when you’re five points off with however many to play then there’s no point in being here,” said Tozer.

“I believe, everyone in the squad believes we can do it, it’s harder to believe it when you have a defeat like Saturday but ultimately we believe we can do it.”

South Wales Argus:

And, looking at the overall picture, O’Brien said: “I know everything seems a bit doom and gloom at the moment because of the results of the last week but if you’d told us we’d be five points off the play-offs coming into the home run we’d have snapped your arm off.

“We’re disappointed because we know we should be higher but we will refocus on the task ahead of us.”

And that last point from O’Brien is the key one for the Exiles this week.

The pressure is off at Wembley tomorrow and the players can afford to savour the experience.

The whole squad and the manager and coaching staff deserve to enjoy a great occasion and so do the supporters.

Whatever the result, they have all helped to raise the profile of the club with this cup run and they’ve all contributed to raising a substantial pot of money that will hopefully be put to good use.

But, barring a miracle result, the players know that from Thursday they must put the hype and the hoopla behind them and refocus on the final 15 league fixtures.

Lincoln and Colchester would have been tough trips at any time in the season and we will never know how much of a factor Wembley was in those defeats.

This coming Saturday the Exiles welcome relegation-threatened Forest Green Rovers to Rodney Parade in the first of nine home games remaining this season.

Rovers have been boosted by a January recruitment drive and they are a side capable of a shock result on their day.

But County thumped their near-neighbours 4-0 in Gloucestershire in October and they should be confident of another three points at the weekend.

A defeat would lead to more questions about FA Cup hangovers and distractions and Flynn’s men know they need to silence those doubting them.

They have to make the most of home advantage over the next few months to grab a great opportunity of making the play-offs – one that may not come around again any time soon.