Newport County AFC have successfully set up an Emirates FA Cup Third Round tie with former Premier League champions Leicester City after a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wrexham AFC at Rodney Parade.
Luke Young’s instant dismissal on 12 minutes helped County safely navigate through a tough game in South Wales – second-half goals from Padraig Amond, Jamille Matt, an own-goal from Mark Carrington and Dan Butler securing County victory.
Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that laboured to a narrow defeat at Swindon Town amidst windy conditions in Wiltshire.
Having starred in a 55-minute cameo, Scot Bennett was a handed a first start in six weeks having recovered from a hamstring injury, taking the place of Andrew Crofts who interestingly is now suffering with the same injury.
Matty Dolan also made a welcome return from his knee injury, replacing Mark O’Brien who is now injured, as the Exiles swapped to a 4-4-2 formation at Rodney Parade.
Antoine Semenyo completed the alterations by replacing Josh Sheehan, no injuries involved this time, rather the Bristol City loanee did enough to start after being the most impressive player last time out.
Wrexham AFC interim manager Graham Barrow made two changes to his starting side that beat Eastleigh at the Racecourse to move back into contention near the top of the National League.
Captain Shaun Pearson was rested in that game, but he came back in to a 4-1-4-1 formation for the Dragons, whilst Luke Young also returned.
It would be fair to say that County just never got going at the Racecourse ten days ago for the original tie, but you couldn’t fault their effort and endeavour in this contest as they controlled the first-half proceedings from start to finish.
It was only 53% possession but it felt like more and the statistics looked like a true reflection when knowing the Exiles had 11 attempts on target compared to Wrexham AFC’s solitary effort.
Starting in a typical derby feel, things came to a head on 12 minutes when Luke Young went in overzealously to a challenge with Mickey Demetriou and referee Kevin Johnson had no hesitation in distributing a red card to the visiting midfielder.
That clearly helped County dominate all of the first-half ascendency, but you have to credit the Dragons for embodying a high level of defensive resilience until half-time, goalkeeper Rob Lainton coping admirably with constant pressure into his area.
Tyreeq Bakinson forced Lainton into a smart save on 20 minutes when shooting from distance, whilst the away shot stopper denied Butler shortly afterwards with instinctive reflexes before seeing Mickey Demetriou blast wide.
All of County’s success was coming from the wide positions, Butler’s left-side favoured on most occasions, and Jamille Matt wasn’t too far away from finding the bottom corner after another wicked delivery caused confusion within the penalty area.
Still County came but they couldn’t break the deadlock even past the half hour, Fraser Franks the next to be denied after more aerial pressure in and around Lainton’s six-yard box.
Credit to Wrexham AFC for keeping themselves within the contest and you could argue they may have had the most clear-cut opportunity before half-time, Joe Day mimicking his performance from in North Wales when superbly tipping over a 25-yard strike from Paul Rutherford.
The rest of the chances again fell to County before the half-time whistle, Matt powering a header into Lainton’s palms and Bennett saw an effort drag wide during the five minutes of additional time added on.
It was a matter of when, not if, the Exiles make their numerical advantage count and Flynn’s decision not to alter things at half-time paid dividends when County broke the deadlock on 49 minutes.
County have scored some delightful goals this season with numerous passes resulting in some goal of the month contenders, but the team won’t care that this one wasn’t as artistically executed.
Butler’s floated delivery to the far post found Dolan unmarked at the back post, his header looked to be drifting wide of the far post, but it hit an unaware Padraig Amond and it bounced into the back of the net.
That brought up 12 goals for the season for the Irishman, sending him joint top of the goalscoring charts with Jamille Matt, but Amond was swiftly put back into second place as Matt struck just before the hour.
The introduction of Robbie Willmott on 52 minutes certainly gave County that added dimension to go and kill the game off, his menacing run into the area freed space and when Antoine Semenyo intentionally left the delivery, Matt passed the ball home to effectively seal County’s place in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
If there were any lingering fears of a potential Wrexham AFC comeback, those fears were more than swiftly allayed when the third goal went in on 65 minutes. Willmott’s run into the area from wide was again sublime, this cross a fizzer that bounced into the goal off the unfortunate Mark Carrington.
Amond hit the post just before the added extras were indicated, six minutes in total, and there was still time for the Exiles to get a fourth in the second minute of time added on.
Butler picked the ball up in a wide position before cutting inside and rocketing a shot into the bottom corner from some distance – the perfect way to end a perfect night at Rodney Parade.
Newport County AFC (4-4-2): Day, Pipe, Franks, Demetriou (C) (Pring 75’), Butler, Bennett (Willmott 52’), Dolan (Labadie 66’), Bakinson, Semenyo, Matt, Amond
Subs not used: Townsend, Harris, Sheehan, Forbes
Wrexham AFC (4-1-4-1): Lainton, Carrington, Lawlor, Pearson (C), Jennings, Young, Wright, Summerfield (Deverdics 71’), Rutherford, Grant (Fondop 79’), Beavon (Holroyd 56’)
Subs not used: Dibble, Sargent, Thorn, Beaumont
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 4,143 (501 AWAY)
Next up for County: MK Dons (15th December 2018) HOME – League Two