BOSS Rob Cousins praised his Yate Town heroes after they knocked Newport County out of the FA Cup to set up a dream tie at Cheltenham Town in the First Round Proper.
Extra time goals by Scott Thomas and Matt Groves secured a shock victory for the Bluebells as the players and coaching staff ran over to the travelling army of fans who made the trip over the Severn Bridge in fantastic scenes of celebration at the final whistle.
While the sending off of former Bristol Rovers defender David Pipe on 66 minutes may have been a significant factor in the outcome with Newport leading 1-0 at the time, Yate had more than matched their illustrious opponents before then and when Tom Knighton equalised from the penalty spot seven minutes later they had the belief to win it.
Yate will now visit Cheltenham, who are currently fourth in League Two, on Saturday, November 3.
A jubilant Cousins said: “Someone was looking down on us. The sheer determination and willingness to pull together as a team was tremendous.
“Every player did their bit. We weren’t lucky, we deserved it.
“In the first half we had as many good chances as they did and I was worried we were going to rue those misses when we got punished just before half time.
“We said at half time, ‘we did it on Saturday (coming from 1-0 down), and if you’ve got that belief and willingness to work hard you’ll get your rewards.’”
As far as FA Cup shocks go, it does not get much bigger.
Newport are four points clear at the top of the Blue Square Premier League and were previously unbeaten at home this season. They are 89 places above Yate, who are bottom of the Southern League Division One South & West and are now the lowest placed team left in the competition.
As Cousins said: “If you put it in comparison, it’s like Bristol Rovers playing Chelsea.”
Many thought Yate’s big chance had gone when they conceded two late goals in the first meeting between the sides last Saturday.
If Newport were complacent on that occasion there was no chance of that happening again, while Cousins had the monumental task of lifting his battle-weary and heartbroken group of part-timers.
However, sometimes football defies logic and with FA Cup magic in the air the scene was set for the most memorable night in Yate’s history.
For those fans who made the trip over the border, they can say: ‘We were there’.
Yate were certainly not over-awed in a Rodney Parade ground much bigger than what they are used to and made a bright start.
Knighton had a glorious chance to give them the lead when Mitchell Page’s challenge on Lee Evans sent him through, but he shot straight at goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley.
With their late equaliser from the weekend in mind, Newport looked to test goalkeeper Josh Dempsey with crosses into the six-yard box whenever possible, and from one such delivery, Jefferson Louis nodded the ball on for Aaron O’Connor to squeeze home one minute before half time.
The complexion of the game changed when Pipe, already booked for an altercation with Page in the first half, was cautioned again for a foul on the same player and set for an early shower.
Yate were then awarded a penalty in bizarre circumstances as Pidgeley lost his head and shoved James Harmer to the ground in the box. Knighton stepped up and confidently sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
When the board appeared with five minutes of injury time, Yate fans must have been fearing a repeat of Saturday’s late heartbreak and almost immediately Lee Minshull’s long range shot was spilt by Dempsey, who reacted brilliantly to deny Ryan Charles from point blank on the rebound.
Yate showed no signs of tiredness in extra time and went ahead with ten minutes to go when Adnan Hiroli headed Ollie Barnes’ corner onto the bar and Thomas followed up to score.
Things got better four minutes later when Groves cut in from the left byline and showed great composure to round Pidgeley and place the ball into the net.