The Northamptonshire minnows were dead and buried at half-time in the original game but can now approach the return with a fearless attitude, having got past the inevitable bout of nerves that manifested in them being outclassed for 45 minutes. Both teams played in awful conditions at the weekend, so that could also be a leveller, with Newport arguably stretched more during their 2-2 draw at Accrington Stanley than Brackley were in their 2-2 draw at AFC Fylde.
The Exiles picked up an excellent point against John Coleman’s men after fighting long and hard to keep the game on when the referee was offering to abandon it at the break. For Sheridan, the focus is very much on climbing away from danger at the foot of League Two and his new club now sit fourth from bottom with a four-point cushion on the bottom two after taking eight points from the last four league outings.
However, honeymoon periods seldom stretch beyond a month and Newport were so poor in the opening six weeks (taking just two points from the first available 24), that any sort of regression to the mean makes them vulnerable. One particularly bad omen for the Welsh club was the sight of Janoi Donacien being stretchered off at the weekend. The on-loan Aston Villa man’s presence at the heart of defence has gone hand in hand with the turnaround but an ankle injury will now rule him out for some time.
And we shouldn’t read too much into Brackley’s position towards the lower reaches of the fifth tier. Kevin Wilkin was appointed as their new manager in September, which was quite a coup considering his past achievements with Nuneaton. The 48-year-old is on a mission to rebuild his reputation after being sacked by Wrexham following an embarrassing FA Trophy final penalty shoot-out defeat to North Ferriby United in March. Routine high-scoring wins aren’t really his forte, his track record is littered with closely-fought underdog victories.
Last season, Wrexham had a terrific record against the top five in the National Premier, picking up 18 points from those ten games, conceding just four goals in the process. It included 1-0 wins both home and away to champions Barnet, while the Dragons were ten minutes away from pulling off a sensational FA Cup giantkilling by the same scoreline at Stoke. So the 1-0 win very much reflects the Wilkin modus operandi and the 22/1 available on Brackley to land that correct score has to be considered.
With home advantage now passed over to Boreham Wood, the current market prices indicate that balance has been redressed slightly, but perhaps not enough. Jim Gannon’s men are in the habit of winning matches, whereas life at the top of the non-league pyramid could be taking its toll on the Hertfordshire club and the pressure of being hot favourites on home soil with a trip to Northampton up for grabs might expose just how much.