JOSS Labadie was Newport County AFC’s captain fantastic at Rodney Parade this afternoon, with the midfielder’s double securing his side a place in tomorrow night's draw for the FA Cup third round.

Exiles skipper Labadie produced a brace of assured finishes to give the hosts every chance of landing a potentially lucrative tie against one of the Premier League’s big boys.

County huffed and puffed in between the captain’s early and late efforts and clear-cut opportunities were hard to come by as both teams cancelled each other out for large portions.

But the home side did what they needed to and deservedly took the spoils on a day where Labadie again stepped up to the plate to guide boss Michael Flynn’s troops to victory.

Flynn made one change to the County XI that started the 1-0 win at Swindon with Mark O'Brien back from injury to replace Scot Bennett, who is nursing a hip problem.

There was also a solitary change on the bench where Robbie Willmott returned following a concussion and Mo Touray dropped out.

And it was a dream start for the hosts with Labadie giving his side the lead after just 80 seconds.

Matty Dolan provided the assist with a pin-point free-kick from the left and the Exile skipper was left completely unmarked to side-foot a volley past keeper David Forde.

The visitors responded well and the early signs were that Uche Ikpeazu and Jabo Ibehre would provide a constant threat for Cambridge.

It was midfielder Liam O’Neil who had the away side’s first effort of the afternoon but his, and County old boy Medy Elito’s effort which followed soon after, went just wide.

County rather sat back on their lead after breaking the deadlock and it wasn’t until first-half injury time that they created another decent opportunity in front of goal.

That said, Joe Day didn’t have much to do in the first half an hour, mainly due to some solid defending from the likes of Ben White, Mark O’Brien and Mickey Demetriou.

In fact, Day wasn’t really called upon until the 30th minute when he comfortably saved Jevani Brown’s somewhat weak attempt.

Cambridge’s front two were being well shackled by the County back three, in particular Demetriou, who stood his ground to deny Ikpeazu a sight on goal.

U’s skipper Leon Legge then added a bit of spice to the tie when he scythed down Shawn McCoulsky – referee Kevin Johnson deemed a yellow card was sufficient punishment.

Demetriou could have added to Labadie’s early strike in time added on but his effort was blocked by Legge, while there was a late scare for the Exiles.

A low drive across goal from Ibehre almost found Ikpeazu at the back post but a deflection off Demetriou saved the day.

From very early in the game Flynn had been imploring his side to not drop so deep, but that advice seemed to be falling on deaf ears, and there was no change at the start of the second half.

With some of the fans demanding their team push up, Elito’s precision pass found Harrison Dunk and his centre was met by Ikpeazu.

Luckily for the hosts there was no power on the striker’s finish and White cleared from a yard out.

There was another scare for the Exiles just after the hour as a slip by Day almost proved very costly.

The keeper lost his footing when trying to clear the ball with United substitute Ade Azeez bearing down on him.

Luckily for County, Day lashed at the ball, it ricocheted back off Azeez and the gloveman was able to see off the danger.

Azeez had come on along with David Amoo and on 65 minutes Flynn swapped McCoulsky for Padraig Amond. Willmott also entered the fray later on.

By that stage County had at last pushed forward and enjoyed more time troubling the Cambridge defence rather than it being the other way round.

The tie may have been settled when Frank Nouble fired a thunderbolt towards the top corner, only for Forde to palm it away.

However, it was game over eight minutes before the end.

Nouble found himself in acres of space on the right and his beautifully judged cross was swept home by Labadie.

Labadie was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Sean Rigg soon after, and rightly so.

All eyes will now be on tomorrow's draw with County fans dreaming of a money-spinning encounter.

County: Day, Pipe, Butler, White, O'Brien, Demetriou, Labadie (capt) (Rigg 84), Dolan (Willmott 77), Tozer, Nouble, McCoulsky (Amond 65). Subs not used: Bittner, Willmott, Reynolds, Foulston, Owen-Evans.

Referee: Kevin Johnson

Attendance: 2,748

Argus star man: Joss Labadie