It would be fair to say that the NCAFC Academy are having their best year since they were formed. They’ve not only reached the semi-final of the FAW Youth Cup (details here), they’ve also qualified for the Merit League for the first time in their history.
Now, two games into the season, the Young Exiles have a 100% win record and are proving that they’re not in the Merit League to simply make up the numbers. Read all about their impressive winning performances against Plymouth Argyle and Leyton Orient below.
NEWPORT COUNTY AFC vs PLYMOUTH ARGYLE FC
On Saturday 25th February, the U18s played the club’s first ever fixture in the EFL Youth Alliance Merit League 1. The starting XI and subs were as follows: Rhys Davies, Thomas Hillman, Jay Foulston, Dion Molyneux, Liam Angel, Joe Hunt, Evan Press, Fin Woods, Josh Williams, Momoudou Touray, Rhys Kavanagh.
Used subs: Jay Williams, Thomas Savigar and Liam Warman.
Unused subs: Stevie Kaca and Sam Richards
The Young Exiles started the game brightly and their first outing in the merit league got off to a dream start as on the 12th minute Momo Touray used some superb footwork to round the ‘keeper and tap the ball into an empty net.
8 minutes later, the lead was doubled as Josh Williams scored a real poachers goal capitalising on a loose ball in the box. The move was started by a fantastic through ball from Rhys Kavanagh who found the run of Momo Touray perfectly. Touray’s shot was parried by the Plymouth goalkeeper but only as far as Williams, who was able to finish the move by riffling his shot into the roof of the net. (See the goal).
The Young Exiles carried their 2-0 lead into halftime and were given just one objective by manager Byron Anthony: do not let Plymouth back into the game.
The team battled hard but Plymouth were finding themselves with more possession and more attacking drive. Their best chances of the game came on the hour mark and it could have been oh-so-different for County if it hadn’t been for an outstanding save by Rhys Davies. Plymouth had broken through down the right-hand side and the pin-point cross landing at the feet of an unmarked forward. Davies pulled off an incredible stop low and to his right to keep his team two ahead. (See the save).
Shortly after, under 16 Jay Foulston finished up the scoring from a corner, volleying it into the roof of the net. The game ended 3-0 to County.
NEWPORT COUNTY AFC vs LEYTON ORIENT FC
On 4th March, the Young Exiles travelled to London to face Category 3 Leyton Orient. The starting XI: Rhys Davies, Dion Molyneux, Liam Angel, Jay Foulston, Joe Hunt, Evan Press, Finlay Wood, Josh Williams, Thomas Hillman, Momdou Touray and Rhys Kavanagh.
Used Subs: Liam Warman (Hillman 45’), Lewis Collins (Williams 45’)
Un-used Subs: Lucas Murray, Thomas Savigar, Owen Taylor
Leyton Orient opened the scoring on 15 minutes, a free-kick on the edge of the box taking a horrible bounce off the surface on its way to Rhys Davies. Able only to get his body behind the ball, it bounced off Davies and into the path of the attacker who fired into the far corner. Despite a valiant effort form the boys in amber, they were unable to even the score before half-time and went in 1-0 down.
The break brought about a change in both personnel and formation as the Young Exiles reverted to a classic 4-4-2 formation.
As the second half got going chances from the NCAFC boys were created and they began to put Orient under real pressure. Not long after the restart, Momo Touray wriggled his way into the penalty box and danced neatly around the defence before being hacked down. In form Rhys Kavanagh scored his 25th goal of the season as he converted the spot kick with a perfect, low strike to the ‘keepers right. 1-1 with 53 minutes played.
The Young Exiles’ defence was well marshalled by the combined efforts of Dion Molyneux, Liam Angel and Rhys Davies and they were able to snuff out any potential Orient chances.
With just twenty minutes to play and chance after chance falling County’s way, the team finally managed to convert the sustained pressure into a goal and took the lead through Joe Hunt. A superbly weighted pass by Kavanagh into Joe Hunts path allowed the left winger to take just one touch before smashing the ball into the top right corner from 18yards out. (see the goal)
The Young Exiles held on to win the game and completed a hard-fought and well deserved comeback earning themselves 3 points.
The Academy Boys will now look forward to hosting Swindon Town on Saturday 11th March.
Photos not taken from games.