THE Football League has released the fixtures for the Final Third Development Cup group stages, writes Andrew Penman.

Newport County AFC have been entered into the southern section of the cup and will be in Group B alongside Bristol City, Cheltenham Town, Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth.

The teams will face each other once after being drawn home or away, with the top two from the group progressing to the semi-finals.

The fixtures for the development side group stages are as follows: week commencing September 29 – County v Bristol City; w/c November 3 – Plymouth Argyle v County; w/c December 8 – Portsmouth v County; w/c January 12 – County v Cheltenham Town.

The Final Third Development League, the oldest reserve league in England, is running a division in the south of the country this season for the first time in its 103-year history.

The new structure will operate in addition to the East and West divisions that include teams from the Midlands, as well as north Wales and north England, and see the League move to a national competition for the first time since it was formed in 1911.

Last season Wigan Athletic won the West Division and the Final Third Development Cup, while Premier League side Hull City claimed the East Division title, as well as being crowned overall champions of the Final Third Development League by virtue of having the most points out of all competing teams.

Clubs from the south have been without competitive reserve team football since the Football Combination folded in 2012.

Ernest Barron, president of the Central League, said: "When we partnered with Final Third Sports Media in January we announced our intention to expand the competition to a national format and we are delighted to have recruited eight new clubs to our membership.

“For the last five years, approximately two-thirds of all players who competed in the Final Third Development League have been under the age of 21 and we are confident the move to a national structure will give us a robust platform in which to help clubs develop young players further.

"The likes of Rickie Lambert, Joe Hart, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Ben Foster all played in the Central League a decade ago and this summer they represented England at the World Cup.

“We hope many more will make their first competitive steps in men's football this way and follow in their footsteps."