Newport County AFC are just 90 minutes away from another trip to Wembley after booking their place in the semi-finals of the Leasing.Com Trophy with victory over Leicester City U21s.
Scot Bennett’s first-half effort proved to be the difference between the two sides at Rodney Parade to set-up a last-four clash with Salford City in two weeks’ time.
Manager Michael Flynn made six changes from Saturday’s defeat at Plymouth Argyle with Nick Townsend, Daniel Leadbitter, Kyle Howkins, George Nurse, Matty Dolan and Tristan Abrahams all coming into the side.
The two teams cancelled each other out in the opening 10 minutes but the Exiles drew first blood when a Mickey Demetriou long throw-in caused panic in the box and Bennett was there to rifle in the loose ball from 10 yards out.
Leicester struggled to impose themselves in the final third, which resulted in hopeful long-range efforts that didn’t threaten Nick Townsend in the Newport goal.
The hosts were asking more of the questions and went close to doubling their lead but Viktor Johansson managed to tip Dolan’s goal-bound free kick over the crossbar.
Bennett headed over at the back post and Josh Sheehan was denied from close range after intricate build-up play on the right wing but the Exiles couldn’t find a second before the break.
The young Foxes found their rhythm as the half went on as Vontae Daley-Campbell fired wide from the edge of the box while Joshua Eppiah saw two shots blocked.
Their improvement continued after the break and the score could have been level just a few minutes after the restart.
George Hirst found space on the wing and picked out the unmarked Ali Reghba but the attacker missed the ball with only Townsend to beat. Luke Thomas stung the palms of the County ‘keeper from the loose ball.
Leicester City U21s were finding space down the flanks and Reghba almost profited but fired wide from an acute angle.
With Leicester enjoying more possession, but still failing to test the County backline, Flynn opted to make his first changes bringing on club captain Joss Labadie and pacey attacker Jordan Green. Padraig Amond joined the action shortly after, replacing Matt.
The visiting youngsters piled on the pressure in the final exchanges as they searched for the equaliser that would have taken the tie to penalties but the Exiles dealt with everything that came their way to seal their place in the next round.
Newport County AFC (3-1-4-2): Nick Townsend; Daniel Leadbitter, Kyle Howkins, Mickey Demetriou; Scot Bennett; Robbie Willmott, Matty Dolan (C) (Joss Labadie 75), Josh Sheehan, George Nurse; Tristan Abrahams (Jordan Green 76), Jamille Matt (Padraig Amond 80).
Subs not used: Tom King, Joe Woodiwiss, Lewis Collins.
Leicester City U21 (3-4-3): Viktor Johansson; Calvin Ughelumba, Darnell Johnson (C), Darragh O’Connor (Thakgalo Leshabela 46); Vontae Daley-Campbell (Terel Pennant 79), Callum Wright, Matty James, Luke Thomas; Josh Eppiah, George Hirst, Ali Reghba,
Subs not used: Jakub Stolarczyk, Justen Kranthove, Conor Tee.
Referee: Ben Toner.
Attendance: 1,357 (49 Leicester City U21).
Next up for County: Cambridge United, February 8 (HOME).