Report Plymouth Argyle

A youthful Newport County AFC rounded off their 2020/21 Papa John's Trophy campaign with a 3-1 defeat against Plymouth Argyle.

Ben Reeves fired the Sky Bet League One side, who like County had suffered two defeats in this competition, ahead just before the half-hour mark with a powerful effort that got the better of Callum Brain. 

And a nine-minute brace from George Cooper in the second half ensured it would be a long way back for the Exiles, who responded through a composed finish from Padraig Amond.

But it only proved to be a consolation for the away team as both sides completed their Southern Group F schedule at Home Park.

Michael Flynn rung the changes from the Exiles' 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Amond and Ashley Baker the only two survivors. The County boss handed debuts to 17-year-old Brain, who started between the sticks, and 17-year-old Aneurin Livermore.

There were also places in the matchday squad, which had an average age of 21.6, for Sonny Lewis, 15, and 16-year-olds Evan Ovedale, Harrison Bright and Callum Ryan-Phillips.

Brain watched on from the sidelines for the Exiles' previous fixtures against Cheltenham Town and Norwich City's Under-21s in the competition, but he rose to the challenge when called upon for the first time against the Pilgrims. It took less than 60 seconds for the home side to test the young goalkeeper, as he made a strong save to deny Ryan Law's powerful effort from finding the back of the net.

Down the opposite end, Kevin Ellison - who was some 26 years older than County's youngest member of the matchday squad - brought the first save of the tie out of Luke McCormick with a shot at the near post.

Plymouth thought they had taken the lead when Timmy Abraham's shot, which appeared to be drifting wide of the post, was nodded past Brain by Niall Canavan. However, the celebrations were cut short when the linesman raised his flag for offside, ensuring the goal was chalked off.

But the home side found a way to break the dead-lock just before the half-hour mark. Abraham held up the ball in the County penalty area before flicking the ball into the path of Reeves, whose powerful shot found the near post despite Brain's efforts to keep it out.

County responded to the goal by creating their best opportunity of the first half after Lewys Twamley raced down the wing and got the better of Cooper. The youngster's cross hit the back of Scott Wootton and fell kindly for Ellison, but the striker's effort bounced back off the upright.

Flynn's youthful side put in a credible performance in the first-half, but found themselves two goals behind after five minutes of the second period. The goal arrived in fortunate fashion for the home side after Cooper's cross took a deflection off Woodiwiss and sent Brain the wrong way, leaving the young goalkeeper helpless in the Exiles goal.

County responded through a well-worked move when Livermore picked out the run of Amond, who took a touch and kept his composure before curling the ball past McCormick with a right-footed effort. But the goal only proved to be a consolation as the home side held out for the victory.

Newport County AFC: Callum Brain, Lewys Twamley, Bradley Webb, Scot Bennett (Harrison Bright 45'), Joe Woodiwiss (Sonny Lewis 54'), Ashley Baker, Callum Ryan-Phillips, Aneurin Livermore, Scott Twine (Ryan Hillier 67'), Padraig Amond (C), Kevin Ellison.

Subs not used: Evan Ovendale, Jamie Devitt.