A SECOND-STRING Newport County AFC XI slipped to a tame 2-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers in their opening Checkatrade Trophy group match.

Manager Michael Flynn will not be overly concerned as he concentrates on preparations for Saturday’s top-of-the-table League Two clash at Exeter City.

But he won’t have been overly impressed by what he saw from his makeshift side at The New Lawn.

Flynn said he would “freshen up” his team for this tie and he was true to his word, making eight changes from the side that started against Chesterfield at the weekend.

Only David Pipe, Ben White and Robbie Willmott survived the cut as the manager opted to rest a host of players and give some of his fringe players a chance to impress, which most passed up.

Ben Tozer made his first start since January after fully recovering from a long-term knee injury, Tom Owen-Evans returned from an ankle knock and Calaum Jahraldo-Martin made his first start for the club on the left of midfield.

Goalkeeping coach James Bittner also enjoyed a rare first team outing as Joe Day watched from the bench.

And the 35-year-old, who played more than 60 times for Forest Green between 2010 and 2012, was a busy man from the start as the hosts dominated the early stages.

Mark Cooper, whose side were thumped 5-1 at Colchester United on Saturday, made just three changes to his starting XI and the hosts looked hungrier from the start.

White was lucky to get away with a misplaced pass that sent Liam Noble through on goal in the sixth minute.

The Rovers skipper should have opened the scoring but he curled his shot wide with only Bittner to beat.

Defender Scott Laird then tested the Exiles keeper again with a cross-cum-shot that dipped viciously and forced Bittner into a fine reaction save under his crossbar.

Pipe, another former Rovers player in the County ranks, did not enjoy his return to The New Lawn.

Dan Wishart raced past him and fired confidently past Bittner to give the hosts a deserved lead in the 21st minute.

It was almost 2-0 when Laird picked out Christian Doidge with a perfect cross from the left flank but the Newport-born striker headed off target from close range.

Wishart then got away from Pipe again and his shot was just inches wide of Bittner’s left-hand post.

And Bittner got down well to his left to deny the impressive Laird a goal direct from a free-kick in first-half stoppage-time.

A disjointed looking County offered little threat at the other end.

Flynn was aggrieved when Owen-Evans failed to win a free-kick after going down on the edge of the box and the Exiles academy graduate curled a shot over the bar soon afterwards.

And Joe Quigley should have scored midway through the half as he rose to meet Sean Rigg’s corner but his header failed to trouble Sam Russell in the home goal.

Pipe and Willmott, who had been booked at the end of the first half, were both withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and Reece Cole.

For Barnum-Bobb, who could still go out on loan before the transfer window closes on Thursday night, it was a first appearance of the season.

The former Cardiff City youth team player made a positive impact going forward, running at Laird and pinning him back.

And it was Barnum-Bobb’s well-timed tackle that gave Dan Butler an opportunity to try his luck from distance,

The left-back’s drilled effort in the 62nd minute was the first on target from the visitors and was well saved by Russell, down low to his left.

Jahraldo-Martin, who also looked a threat going forward on the left, then saw a shot palmed behind and Quigley’s header was cleared off the line as the visitors upped their game in the final quarter of the match.

Flynn threw on Padraig Amond for Tozer, who will be relatively happy to have got 71 minutes in the bank, but his side couldn’t find a way back into the tie. And Luke James slammed in a second from the edge of the area on 84 minutes to wrap up the points and the £10,000 prize money for Rovers.

County: Bittner; Butler, White, Bennett, Pipe (Barnum-Bobb, 46); Tozer (Amond, 71); Jahraldo-Martin, Owen-Evans, Rigg, Willmott (Cole, 46); Quigley

Subs not used: Day, Foulston, Dolan, Nouble

Booked: Willmott, Owen-Evans

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 1,090 (239 County)

Argus star man: Rigg