Eastleigh FC: Newport FA Cup replay is club’s ‘biggest ever match’

Joe Partington scored the opening goal at Bolton in the third-round replay in 2015-16 but the Spitfires were edged out 3-2

Eastleigh’s home FA Cup replay against Newport is their “biggest ever” game with Manchester United visiting the winners, says ex-player Joe Partington.

Monday’s fourth-round draw saw 12-time winners United drawn away at either the National League Spitfires or Newport.

Following Saturday’s draw in Wales the replay takes place on 16 January.

“You hope and dream of this draw – now the replay is probably Eastleigh’s biggest ever game by a mile,” defender Partington told BBC Radio Solent.

The 33-year-old played more than 150 games for the club over three spells and played in Eastleigh’s previous greatest FA Cup adventure as they beat Crewe in the first round in 2015-16 and then opened the scoring in a third-round replay defeat at Bolton later that season.

Partington, who now plays for St Albans in National League South, also featured as the non-league Spitfires won 3-1 at Swindon in a first-round replay the following year but says the prospect of Premier League United coming to town overshadowed them all.

“It’s a mouth-watering tie,” he added.

“It doesn’t really get much better than that. It would be pretty special. There have been amazing days for this football club in the past but this would trump all of those completely.”

League Two Newport have their own history in cup competitions having faced Tottenham in the FA Cup fourth round in 2018, Manchester City in the last 16 the following year and Newcastle in the EFL Cup in 2020.

“I remember them having big cup ties in their history,” Partington said.

“They have had a couple of moments against huge clubs. I’m sure those days they had against that calibre of team were awesome for them.

“For Eastleigh this is uncharted territory. We’ve managed to get into the third round a couple of times but just imagine having Manchester United, regardless of what team they pick, just them as a club, their supporters, their management team, all knocking shoulders with everyone at Eastleigh.

“It’s very difficult to imagine because it’s so surreal. You wouldn’t anticipate it would ever happen but it’s only 90 minutes away from the most amazing game the club has ever had.”

Partington claimed the pressure was all on Newport who spurned the chance to progress at home to the 10-man Spitfires on Saturday.

“If you’re an Eastleigh player I’d argue there isn’t that much pressure,” he added.

“There’s the opportunity to play the biggest club in the world, but the pressure is arguably on Newport, they are the higher ranked team and have to come away to a National League stadium on the back of not being able to beat 10 men.

“The replay is going to be an amazing occasion and such an incredible opportunity – everyone associated with Eastleigh should get themselves there to try and help the boys over the line.”


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