Newport County AFC are through to the Second Round of the Emirates FA Cup following an outstanding 2-1 victory over League 1 Walsall at Rodney Parade.
Both strikers got the goals for the Exiles as Frank Nouble opened the scoring just 18 minutes into the game.
Nouble was found just inside the Walsall half before spinning his two markers and launching a shot from 30 yards. It did take a deflection off Walsall defender Jon Guthrie, but the goal will stand as Nouble’s, who scored for the first time in 13 Exiles appearances.
And within 60 seconds of the restart, Shawn McCoulsky got the other for his eighth goal of the season.
After a marauding run from the heart of the defence, Ben White found McCoulsky with a fine through ball, who turned his marker and unleashed an unstoppable strike into the far corner to put County fully in control.
But Walsall substitute Amadou Bakayoko halved the deficit with a fine header into the far corner with 12 minutes to go, to set up a dramatic finish at Rodney Parade.
But a determined defensive County display ensured Walsall were prevented from forcing a replay, as County made their way into the second round.
Exiles manager Mike Flynn elected to make three changes to the side that suffered a 3-0 defeat to Notts County last weekend.
David Pipe recovered from illness to return to the starting side while fellow defender Mark O’Brien also came back in after missing the last game with a foot injury.
Robbie Willmott advanced into the midfield as Sean Rigg and Scot Bennett made way for the defensive pair.
The final change came in attack with Shawn McCoulsky replacing Padraig Amond as the Exiles kept to the familiar 3-5-2 formation at Rodney Parade.
Walsall manager Jon Whitney made two changes to his Walsall side that lost their unbeaten home start to the season with a 1-0 defeat to Southend last weekend.
Loan-star James Wilson missed out completely after his parent club Sheffield United failed to give him permission to start in the competition, while striker Amadou Bakayoko dropped to the bench.
Kieron Morris and Zeli Ismail returned in their place, as the Saddlers changed to a 4-4-2 formation, with Tyler Roberts, who was called up the Wales U21 squad in midweek up-front with Erhun Oztumer.
And it was one of the returning Walsall players who fashioned the opening opportunity for the away side within four minutes.
Ismail was found in acres of space on the right-hand side following a cross field pass from Kieron Morris, and although his cross looked like it was going to evade everyone in the area, it somehow swerved back and skimmed the top of the crossbar before going out.
From there, it was all County until the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Butler starting really well on the left-hand side and providing testing crosses to Mark Gillespie in the away goal.
An injury to Walsall captain Adam Chambers brought a temporary halt to a bright spell for County, who required pitch side treatment before returning back into the fold.
But the Exiles weren’t affected for too long as Frank Nouble opened the scoring in the 18th minute for his first goal since his hat-trick against Chesterfield on August 26th.
Nouble beat two players just inside the Walsall half before unleashing a shot from 30 yards that took a slight deflection off Jon Guthrie on its way in for his sixth goal of the campaign.
Walsall were certainly gaining a foothold in the proceedings as the game advanced to the half-hour mark, definitely having a greater portion of the possession and playing some intricate stuff through the middle before attempting to release their two wingers.
But other than collecting wayward through balls, Exiles goalkeeper Joe Day didn’t have a lot to do in the opening encounters, Oztumer firing wide after Ben White had blocked a Roberts effort from outside the area.
Luke Leahy’s fizzed cross caused a problem for County just after, although no-one could connect to it as Butler assuredly put it behind. Roberts blasted way over from the resulting corner.
A succession of corners gave County some rest bite on 39 minutes, although nothing came from any of them as Nouble didn’t connect well with a header from the final Dolan delivery.
The indication of two minutes additional time couldn’t inspire either side to create any further opportunities as County went in at the break in-front.
Despite the scoreline, it would be fair to say that the Saddlers were having the majority of the possession. They were certainly insistent on using the wide players throughout and were getting relative success out wide.
But they weren’t hurting County despite the possession, as Joe Day would have been pleased with the output from his defensive line.
For the Exiles, Dan Butler was the standout player of the opening 45 minutes, posing a constant threat to the Walsall defence as the front-two were looking menacing throughout.
And within 60 seconds of the restart, McCoulsky doubled the Exiles advantage.
He was picked out on the outside of the area on the right-side by Ben White, sent his marker the wrong way before firing across goal and into the far corner.
Day was forced into his first real saving shortly after, holding an Oztumer shot comfortably as Walsall looked to get back into the contest.
And had it not been for an offside flag, they would have been back in it on 55 minutes. It looked like Morris had ghosted onto an Ismail high delivery and scuffed a shot past Day, although the referee’s whistle saved County on that occasion.
Whitney made his first substitution on 62 minutes to try to change the dynamic for his Walsall side, Amadou Bakayoko replacing Morris, who was arguably the brightest spark for the Saddlers.
McCoulsky almost burst through from a Ben Tozer through ball with twenty minutes to go, only for Gillespie to burst off his line and smother out any potential danger.
Flynn made his first substitution shortly after as Mark O’Brien, who took a flying shot to the face a few minutes earlier, made way for Scot Bennett.
Nouble came agonisingly close to wrapping the victory up for County with fifteen minutes remaining but saw his header from a corner narrowly avoid the far top corner.
But instead of sealing the victory, Walsall got themselves back into it with 12 minutes to go through the substitute Bakayoko.
He was found unmarked in the area and glanced a header past Day to set up a tense finale at Rodney Parade.
County substitute Padraig Amond was almost found free in the area from a chipped Tozer pass, although couldn’t quite get it under control with his outstretched leg.
Four minutes of injury time did nothing to ease the nerves of the Exiles fans, as Gillespie had to rush from his line to deny Nouble at the end of the second minute.
But County held on despite a heavy Walsall presence in the penalty area late on to round off a fantastic display at Rodney Parade, as the Exiles beat higher league opposition in the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since the 2001/02 season.
County: Day, Pipe, Demetriou, O’Brien (C) (Bennett 69’), White, Butler, Dolan, Willmott, Tozer, Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 80’)
Subs not used: Bittner, Reynolds, Jackson, Owen-Evans, Rigg
Walsall: Gillespie, Leahy, Guthrie, Donnellan, Kinsella, Chambers, Edwards, Morris (Bakayoko 62’), Ismail, Roberts, Oztumer (Kouhyar 74’)
Subs not used: Devlin, Jackson, Roberts, Flanagan, Roberts
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 2,701 (399 Away)
Next up for County: Cheltenham Town (7th November) 7:30 KICK OFF – CheckaTrade Trophy