AFTER a tough three weeks this was a result and a performance to put a smile back on the faces of everyone connected with Newport County AFC.

Things have not gone to plan for the Exiles since that stunning 4-0 win at Forest Green Rovers on October 14.

Defeats to Colchester United and Notts County and a frustrating home draw with Mansfield Town saw Flynn’s men slip to eighth in League Two.

And the fallout from the resignation of director Charlie Hopkins threatened to overshadow the on-field progress made on the pitch so far this season.

County were in need of a tonic and the FA Cup provided it as they returned to form in some style to overcome League One Walsall with relative ease.

And almost as important as the win was the end of Frank Nouble’s 12-game goal drought.

The striker admitted that it had been playing on his mind and he wasn’t at all concerned that it took a big deflection to divert his shot past Walsall goalkeeper Mark Gillespie and into the top corner of the net on 18 minutes.

The home fans weren’t bothered either and they will rightly figure that their side were due some luck after questionable refereeing decisions cost them dearly against Mansfield and Notts County.

The visitors may have dominated the possession stats but they rarely threatened Joe Day’s goal in the first half and a disciplined and determined display meant the Exiles were comfortable at the break.

And, just 25 seconds after the restart, they were in total control thanks to a sublime second goal.

Ben White, back to his brilliant best after a disappointing day at Meadow Lane last Saturday, was the creator as he intercepted the ball and beat his man before sliding a perfect pass through the Saddlers’ defence.

Shawn McCoulsky raced onto it and executed a fantastic first-time finish into the bottom corner from a tight angle.

That was 20-year-old loan star’s eighth goal of the season and it fully justified his promotion from super-sub to starting striker.

South Wales Argus:

Nouble, McCoulsky (above) and Padraig Amond, a late substitute on Saturday, now have 20 goals between them so far this season.

As long as the trio are spurring each other on this side will pose a threat to any opponents.

And when they defend as well as they did on Saturday, there won’t be too many breaching the Exiles’ back line.

Notts County could have scored six rather than three after Dan Butler’s red card last week but normal service was resumed at Rodney Parade.

The return of David Pipe from illness and Mark O’Brien from injury were big factors and their presence brought the best out of White and Mickey Demetriou.

Walsall did have a good goal disallowed for offside before substitute Ama Bakayoko headed in 13 minutes from time.

But County frustrated their League One opponents for the majority of the night and they shackled exciting attacking talents like Erhun Oztumer and Wales under-21 star Tyler Roberts, who was watched by national manager Chris Coleman.

There were nervy moments in the closing stages but Flynn’s men deservedly held on to keep alive the dream of taking on a Premier League giant in the third round.

And that is a prospect that will keep those smiles in place at Rodney Parade.

County: Day; White, O’Brien (Bennett, 69), Demetriou; Pipe, Dolan, Tozer, Butler; Willmott; Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond, 81)

Subs not used: Bittner, Owen-Evans, Rigg, Reynolds, Jackson

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 2,701