THE Wembley dream is over for Newport County AFC after they crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy on penalties at Cheltenham Town.

Padraig Amond had given County a deserved half-time lead with his 10th goal of the season but they were made to pay for their profligacy as Alex Addai levelled for the hosts midway through the second half.

And after 13 successive penalties were scored, Mark Harris saw his spot-kick saved by Scott Flinders and the Exiles were beaten 7-6.

The match will also be remembered for the return to action of Joss Labadie, who got his first minutes since March after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury.

Manager Michael Flynn made seven changes from Saturday’s bore draw at Wrexham with only Dan Butler, Fraser Franks, Josh Sheehan and Amond retaining their places in the starting XI.

In came Nick Townsend, Jay Foulston, Cameron Pring, Tyler Forbes, Charlie Cooper, Antoine Semenyo and Harris.

Joe Day, David Pipe and Mickey Demetriou joined Labadie, and youngsters Lewis Collins, Owen Taylor and Tom Hillman on the bench.

Mark O’Brien, Andrew Crofts, Tyreeq Bakinson and Jamille Matt were not involved.

The hosts made six changes from their FA Cup defeat at Accrington Stanley but Will Boyle and Tyrone Barnett, who scored in their 2-1 win over the Exiles on November 24, started alongside former County man Ben Tozer.

Cheltenham started brightly with Sam Jones twice testing Townsend in the opening 10 minutes but County slowly began to take control.

Sheehan played in Harris with an excellent through-ball but Flinders was out quickly to smother the danger.

Franks then headed over from Cooper’s cross before Amond, who started in midfield, broke the deadlock in the 17th minute.

Pring’s cross from the left was cleverly dummied by Franks, allowing Amond to place his shot into the bottom corner.

Cooper then thought he’d scored his first County goal and doubled the lead but the referee had halted play for a foul before he smashed the ball past Flinders.

Townsend saved again from Jones at the other end and then endured a nervy moment as he came for a high ball, missed it and collided with Franks before Butler cleared the danger.

That man Jones should have levelled from the corner but he volleyed over from only six yards out before Harris almost extended County’s lead with a curling effort that just cleared Flinders’ bar.

South Wales Argus:

The Exiles were good value for their lead at the break and the second half started in similar fashion with Forbes twice going close and Flinders denying Cooper with a smart stop.

County looked comfortable when Pipe replaced Forbes on 66 minutes but the Robins were level just two minutes later when Alex Addai took advantage of some hesitant defending from a corner to hook in from close range.

Labadie then replaced Cooper for the final 20 minutes and Cheltenham sent on Jordon Forster and Kelsey Mooney as both sides looked to find a winner and avoid the lottery of penalties.

The home side looked the most likely as the dangerous Jones saw another long-range effort beaten away by Townsend and Addai blazed over from 15 yards out.

Labadie saw a shot deflected over late on and Sheehan’s free-kick was saved by Flinders as it ended all square before the penalty drama.

County: Townsend; Franks, Foulston (Demetriou, 79), Butler; Forbes (Pipe, 66), Cooper (Labadie, 70), Amond, Sheehan, Pring; Semenyo, Harris

Subs not used: Day, Taylor, Hillman, Collins

Referee: Andy Woolmer

Attendance: 739 (94 County)

Argus star man: Harris