A SECOND-STRING Newport County AFC side recovered from a shaky start to push a far more experienced Cheltenham Town XI all the way in this Checkatrade Trophy dead rubber.

Neither side could progress in the competition and there appeared little appetite for the meaningless contest in Newport with a sparse crowd on a cold night at Rodney Parade.

But those that stayed away missed an entertaining contest and a first professional goal for the lively Lamar Reynolds, as well as a glimpse of the club’s future.

County manager Michael Flynn made a massive 10 changes from Saturday’s FA Cup win as he rested a host of key men ahead of Friday’s League Two clash with Port Vale.

Only Dan Butler remained from the starting XI against Walsall and there were senior debuts for academy prospects Tom Hillman at right-back and Evan Press and Lewis Collins in midfield.

And Jay Foulston – the 16-year-old who featured in the last Trophy tie against Swansea City under-21s – returned in central defence.

The early signs were not good for the experimental line-up with Cheltenham taking just 71 seconds to break the deadlock.

Brian Graham took advantage of some poor defending and, played onside by Scot Bennett, was left alone to head over James Bittner from close range.

Harry Pell made it 2-0 on 11 minutes, firing in after Will Boyle’s initial shot was blocked.

And it was so nearly three after 19 minutes when Jerell Sellars curled a shot onto the bar from 20 yards out with Bittner beaten.

It looked as if it was going to be a long night for the hosts but they gradually began to get a grip on the game and grow in confidence.

South Wales Argus:

Striker Marlon Jackson (above), making his first appearance since sustaining a hamstring injury in a pre-season friendly at Evesham in July, burst between two defenders and forced Robins’ goalkeeper Scott Flinders into a smart save.

And Reynolds, urged on by Flynn from the touchline, proved he had the beating of the visiting defence in terms of pace and trickery.

The former Brentwood Town forward put in several dangerous crosses in the first half but Jackson and Joe Quigley could not convert the chances.

Reynolds also dragged a shot wide after an impressive run through the middle of the Cheltenham defence.

And it was no surprise when he pulled a goal back within three minutes of the restart, poking home after good work by Quigley.

Irish under-21 international Quigley, who has struggled for first-team action since his loan move from AFC Bournemouth, almost levelled just before the hour but his near post effort was deflected just wide.

Press also had a chance but his close-range shot was straight at Flinders as the Exiles threatened to make Cheltenham pay for taking their foot off the gas.

There were soon warnings signs at the other end, however, as substitute Mohamed Eisa flashed a shot inches wide from 30 yards.

Defender Dan O’Shaughnessy’s diving header was just off target and the impressive Pell clipped the outside of Bittner’s post from distance.

Flynn gave another debut to youngster Owen Taylor and threw on Padraig Amond as Jackson and Quigley made way but they couldn’t find an equaliser.

Bittner was forced into a fine save to keep out Kevin Dawson’s drive as the visitors finished as they had begun and they comfortably held on to claim the £10,000 prize money.

County: Bittner; Butler, Foulston, Bennett, Hillman; Reynolds, Rigg, Press; Collins; Jackson (Taylor, 70), Quigley (Amond, 81)

Subs not used: Day, Pipe, Demetriou, Tozer, McCoulsky

Referee: Simon Hooper

Attendance: 540

Argus star man: Reynolds