Newport manager Michael Flynn is very happy to go into tomorrow night’s League Two play-off semi-final first leg as underdogs against visiting Mansfield Town.
The Stags only missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of the regular season – a third defeat in a row - while Newport only scraped into the seventh and final play-off spot with a late goal against Morecambe to make it 10 games unbeaten.
“I’m quite happy with them being favourites,” said Flynn.
“They finished fourth, they finished above us in the league season, they’ve got a very good group of players, they’ve got an ambitious manager and a lot bigger budget than us.
“They’re rightfully favourites and we go into the game with nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s going to be down to us to upset the odds.
“I think our league season was very good. We finished seventh with some big teams in there.
“Some of those bigger teams haven’t made it to the play-offs, so it’s a fantastic achievement for us as a football club.
“That’s down to the players and my staff.”
Flynn admitted he was surprised the Stags didn’t go up automatically.
“I am, if I’m honest, considering the quality they’ve got in the squad.
The pressure is definitely on them,” he said.
“But that’s not my concern. I hope they continue their poor form and we’re at our best and we make it to the final.”
Mansfield were comfortable 3-0 home winners over Newport in the first game of the season.
“On the day up there we had one or two chances to get right back into the game,” said Flynn.
“It wasn’t to be and it was some poor defending that cost us.
“To be fair to the boys, they haven’t done that too often this season and I’m hoping that we don’t repeat that up there.
“But we’ve got the home game first and it’s going to be rocking at Rodney Parade.
“It’s going to be a big crowd and it’s going to be a tough game for Mansfield.”
He added: “I don’t think that was one of our worst performances at Mansfield, if I’m totally honest.
“Yes, they were better than us and they were stronger than us.
“They took control of the game in the first half, but they didn’t do that so much in the second half and they definitely didn’t do it at Rodney Parade.
“But they deservedly won their home game and it’s going to be tough.”
Flynn said the Exiles needed something to take Mansfield for Sunday’s second leg.
“I’m not looking to keep it tight; I want to take an advantage to Mansfield,” he said.
“If we don’t then we’ll just go for it on Sunday.
“But there is absolutely no pressure on us because we’ve already climbed a mountain to get into the play-offs.
“It’s a fantastic achievement. But we are going into to it to win.
“We want to make sure we get in a good position on Thursday and then we’ve got to do the same on Sunday, otherwise it’ll be Mansfield going to Wembley and we’ll be looking back on what could have been.
“But, if we go and produce the performance levels that we know we can do, we can cause a big upset.”
Only a late equaliser against Morecambe saw them into the play-offs at the weekend and Flynn smiled: “We never do things the easy way. “We were never going to be 4-0 up with 20 minutes to play at Morecambe on Saturday.
“They did very well on the day, especially in the second half, and they caused us a lot of problems.
“It was the most nerve-wracking two minutes of the season.
“It’s not the only time that my nerves have been tested as Newport County manager, though. It’s not doing much for my health.
“But for us to come through that and not lose when we weren’t anywhere near our best was another tick in the box.
“It kept that unbeaten run going and the only pressure is they’ve got to keep doing it now for another three games.”
He added: “I’d much rather be going into the play-offs with a 10-game unbeaten run than a 10-game losing run.
“It’s given the boys confidence and it’s showed them that they belong in the play-offs, because they’ve done it the hard way – like we usually do.
“We go in with confidence but there’s no good going in too confident and getting carried away because nothing is done yet.”