NEWPORT County AFC under-18s kicked off their Football League Youth Alliance campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 win away to local rivals Bristol Rovers on Saturday morning, writes Andrew Penman.

Ben Brooks scored County's first just before half-time with Tom Owen-Evans adding a second seven minutes after the break to give the Exiles youngsters the win they deserved.

It was a big improvement on last season’s corresponding fixture, which County lost 4-0.

Youth development coach Mike Flynn missed the match as he was in action for the first team against Wycombe Wanderers.

Danny Elliott and Kevin Waterhouse were in charge of the team but Flynn was following the match closely and was delighted with the result.

He posted on Twitter: “Massive turn around for the academy; lost 4-0 last year to Bristol Rovers (but) a big 2-1 away win today. #proud #massiveimprovements”

Flynn told the Argus last week: “We’ve changed the system to 4-3-3 so that they are ready to step up to the firsts if they’re called upon and I have already been impressed with how a lot of them have taken to the new ideas.”

Next up for the under-18s is a cup match against Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday afternoon at Newport’s Dragon Park.

Then on Saturday it’s back to the FLYA and a home clash with Swindon Town in the South West section at 11am.

Under-18s starting XI at Bristol Rovers: Luke Harries, Cedrick Mpadi, Regan Poole (captain), Sam James, Kieran Parselle, Harry Waterhouse, Corey Shephard, Lewis Bamford, Aaron Collins, Ben Brooks and Tom Owen-Evans.

Subs: Spencer Wood, Nathan Wood, Dan Raymond, Jordan Rathbone and Joe Ward.