Weblog: The football punter

Newport need a miracle at Rodney Parade

TV: BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Saturday

Newport have become synonymous with upsetting the odds ever since Michael Flynn became manager but even he may find Manchester City a step too far for his battling underdogs in the FA Cup fifth round.

Flynn has been producing miracles since he stepped up from former player to coaching legend in 2017, first keeping the club in Sky Bet League Two in the dying minutes of the final match of the season after they had been 11 points adrift of safety when he arrived.

And now he has become a cup king.

Last season Newport reached the fourth round, shocking Leeds at Rodney Parade before scaring Tottenham in a 1-1 draw - Spurs needing a late equaliser from Harry Kane to settle their nerves and eventually came through 2-0 at Wembley.

This campaign's FA Cup run started with non-league opponents Met Police and Wrexham before Premier League side Leicester were rattled in a 2-1 loss in Wales, followed by Middlesbrough in round four.

It's a remarkable success story for Flynn and his Newport side, who possess the stereotypical characteristics of a lower-league team capable of causing problems. They can be direct, are a big threat from set-pieces and play on a bobbly pitch which is also used for rugby.

The facilities will be alien to City's superstars and the surface far from ideal, although the Champions League favourites, who are still on track for a quadruple this season, should still justify their status as red-hot favourites.

Pep Guardiola will presumably rotate his biggest hitters, but Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi were among those who did not start last week's stunning 6-0 success against Chelsea at the Etihad so there is more than enough in reserve.

Finding ways of getting with the long odds-on shots is always tricky when the enormous gulf in class is reflected in the odds, but a relatively low-scoring City win may be the better value.

Pep Guardiola's men to win in a game featuring under 4.5 goals could definitely be of interest despite City having already thumped EFL sides Rotherham (7-0) and Burton (9-0).

Both of those games were at the Etihad and this season's away results include a 3-0 victory at Oxford when two goals in the last 15 minutes finally put the League One strugglers to bed.

There is not a great deal of difference between the bottom of League One and Newport, who would rightly argue they are a better side than 15th in League Two suggests with the Exiles quite understandably distracted by the cup run.

Man City to win & under 4.5 goals

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Match in Focus


Kazakhstan v Scotland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Kazakhstan have conceded 89 goals in their last 40 qualification matches.
Expert verdict
Nearly 21 years have passed since the Tartan Army last followed Scotland to a major international tournament.However, there is a quiet confidence that the Scots can end that barren run. The Kazakhs are ranked 77 places below Scotland and have won only three of their last 40 major tournament qualifiers.