NOTTS County will become the first football League club to celebrate their 150th anniversary this year.
The Magpies got their historic year off on the right footing at Meadow Lane on Monday as they came back from 2-0 down to hold promotion-chasing Huddersfield Town to a 2-2 draw at Meadow Lane.
The Magpies looked as though they could be one of the teams battling it out for a place in next year’s Championship earlier in the season after picking up 13 points from their five games in September.
But they have dropped down to 11th place in the table after picking up just one win from their last 11 games.
Even so, they are still punching above their weight for a club who only just held on to their League One status last season after ditching Paul Ince and bringing in Martin Allen in April.
The former Brentford boss twice steered the Bees to the League One play-offs during his two years in charge at Griffin Park.
Before linking up with the Magpies, who looked to be heading straight back to League Two just 12 months after being promoted as league champions, he had been working on a non-contract basis at Barnet, where he had started to turn their fortunes around during his brief spell in charge.
The charismatic Allen, who was known as ‘Mad Dog’ during his time as a player at West Ham United and QPR, justified the Magpies’ decision to appoint him and not only did he help them retain their League One status he has also assembled a side who are hard to beat on a shoestring budget.
Among his close-season recruits is left-sided midfielder Jeff Hughes.
Released by Bristol Rovers, Hughes has more than justified Allen’s faith in him and he is the club’s top scorer to date with 10 goals to his tally.
Veteran striker Lee Hughes (no relation) has also been among the goals and will pose a threat to Rovers’ hopes of keeping another clean sheet.
The Magpies reached the third round with a 4-1 win over Accrington Stanley in the first round a a 2-0 win at Sutton United in their televised second round tie.
Having successfully seen off would-be giant-killers in the last round, the Magpies will be hoping that the boot is on the other foot tomorrow and that they will provide a Cup shock.
Allen boasts a decent record in the competition and twice steered the Bees into the fifth round.
Rovers will be the second Championship side that the Magpies have faced in cup football this season - they lost on penalties after their Carling Cup tie at the City Ground finished 3-3 after extra time.
Allen, who will certainly have his side motivated tomorrow, reportedly swum across the Trent prior to the Forest game.
Teams and referee
Rovers (possible) Button, Beye, Hird, Lockwood, Ilunga/O’Connor; Coppinger, Stock, Gillett, Bennett; Diouf/Hayter Sharp (4-4-2).
NOTTS COUNTY: (possible) Nelson; Kelly, Pearce, Hollis, Sheehan, Judge, Bencherif, Bishop, J Hughes; Burgess, L Hughes (4-4-2).
phillip gibbs (West Midlands): This will be Mr Gibbs’ third FA Cup game of the season - he had charge of Swindon’s 4-1 first round win over Huddersfield and the Leyton Orient-Gillingham second round tie. He has taken charge of 24 games this season and dished out 75 yellow cards and three reds. He booked eight players in the Brighton-Blackpool Championship game in August and another seven in the Forest-Palace clash.
The teams will be meeting for the fifth time in the FA Cup with Rovers having won three and drawn one. The last meeting in the competition was in the 1989-90 season with Rovers winning 1-0 in a first round tie at Belle Vue.
The clubs have met more recently in knockout football in the first round of the Carling Cup, both at Meadow Lane. Rovers paid the price for taking a much-changed side to County in their first season in the Championship when losing 1-0 in the 2008-09 season.
A second half goal by James Coppinger secured Rovers the spoils when the clubs met at the same venue in the same stage of the competition the following season. Tomorrow’s game will be the Magpies’ first visit to the Keepmoat Stadium.