Mike Flynn says he was delighted with the effort from the Academy players selected in the 2-1 defeat to Cheltenham Town in the CheckaTrade Trophy, insisting it was one of the many positives that he will be taking from the game.
The Robins made a quick start at Rodney Parade and had both of their goals within the opening 11 minutes.
In-fact, it only took the visitors 71 seconds to find the opener as Brian Graham rose highest from a Kevin Dawson delivery to loop a header over James Bittner from just outside the six-yard area.
And it wasn’t too long until the Robins extended their advantage.
Bittner made a fantastic save to deny Graham from getting his second of the night, although the clearance only fell as far as the edge of the area to Harry Pell, who fired home despite the best efforts of two County players on the goal-line.
From there, the Exiles took control of the proceedings and got a reward for their efforts when Lamar Reynolds got his first competitive goal in County colours just three minutes after the break.
Fellow striker Joe Quigley played a splitting pass through the two Cheltenham centre-halves into the path of Reynolds, who composed himself with a neat first-touch, before dinking an effort over away goalkeeper Scott Flinders from just inside the penalty area.
And despite constant pressure on the Cheltenham goal from there to the end of the game, no equalizer could be found as County were knocked out of the CheckaTrade Trophy following three defeats in the group stages.
But the main story of the night came as Flynn gave four debuts to players from Byron Anthony’s U18s Academy.
Academy captain Jay Foulston, who has played twice for County already this term, started alongside team-mates Evan Press, Tom Hillman and Lewis Collins. Owen Taylor came on with twenty minutes remaining.
And Flynn was very pleased with the output from the debutants.
He affirmed: “I thought it was a brilliant performance from a team where I gave four people their debuts from the youth team.
“We’re out of the competition, I know there’s £10,000 at stake but I’ve got a lot of injuries and illness.
“And I just thought it was more beneficial to see what a couple of the youth players could do.
“I thought the boys were brilliant, they played against almost Cheltenham’s first team and we were the better team.
“They would have learnt a lot tonight and it’s healthy.”
The game also presented Flynn with a chance to get a few players some much needed minutes.
Marlon Jackson played 70 minutes on his return from the hamstring injury sustained against Gloucester City in pre-season, while Joe Quigley made his fifth appearance of the season and Lamar Reynolds, voted man-of-the-match by both the fans and the match sponsors Newport County AFC subscription draw, scored the first professional goal of his career.
And Flynn was pleased with the output from his three starting attacking players, who lined up in a 4-3-3 formation at Rodney Parade.
He commented: “I thought Lamar was brilliant and he scored his first goal, that’s another positive out of it. His first professional goal.
“Marlon had 70 minutes coming back from injury so I think there’s a lot of positives tonight.
“And that was the best that I’ve seen Joe Quigley for us if I’m honest and I’ve just told him that.
“That’s the levels he’s got to keep to and he’s fallen short of that. He’s admitted that himself but he’s a great kid and I thought he played very well tonight.”
Quigley now heads off for international duty on Saturday with Ireland U21s so would still be available for the Port Vale game on Friday.
And Flynn confirmed he was disappointed to see Quigley go away from the squad so soon after such a positive impact during a game.
He added: “It’s a little unfortunate now that Joe is going to Ireland on Saturday.
“It’s kind of broken his rhythm now so it’s not as clear-cut as I don’t fancy him when he’s not playing.
“Four times he’s been away now with international duty which is not ideal for us.”
Speaking more specifically on Reynolds, Flynn believes he can get the best out of him ready for his frontman to have a big impact on the rest of the season.
“I think he’s just got to listen,” he said.
“I know I can make him a better player. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, I just know that with the speed he’s got and his good footwork that he’s got, that if he sticks to the basics then he’s almost unplayable at times.”
And Flynn also confirmed that Reynolds will have a big part to play against Port Vale on Friday.
He confirmed: “He’ll be involved on Friday but I’ll have to assess everyone when we’re in tomorrow and like I said we’ve had a bit of illness, people carrying niggles so I couldn’t risk it.
“You’ve got people like David Pipe, who’s 34 now, three games in six days is not healthy. Robbie Willmott just coming back from injury then it’s not healthy.
“We had to rest Mark O’Brien and Ben Tozer is away ill. It’s a big amount of players missing.”
And Flynn also provided an injury update on his captain Joss Labadie post-match.
He affirmed: “I don’t think he’ll be ready but there’s still 48/72 hours to go so I’ll know more about it tomorrow. I’m not going to rush him because I don’t want to lose him again.”
The Cheltenham game came just 24 hours after the Emirates FA Cup Second Round draw was made, which saw the Exiles drawn at home against fellow League Two side Cambridge United.
And Flynn confirmed he was ecstatic to be drawn at Rodney Parade.
“I’m very pleased to be at home,” he stated.
“It’s going to be a tough game, they will fancy their chances and so will we.
“It’s at home and that’s the biggest thing for me. It’s a winnable tie for both teams, we’ll both give it our best shot and hopefully it’s us in the hat in the third round.
“But I’ve got a few league games before that to worry about first.”
NEXT UP: It's back to League Action as we face Port Vale Friday night. Kick Off: 7.45pm. Click here for Tickets.