MIKE Flynn has said he couldn’t be prouder of his heroic Newport County side after they suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Newcastle United.

Newport were just three minutes away from making the Carabao Cup quarter-finals for the first time after Tristan Abrahams’ fifth-minute strike was followed by a second half of dogged resistance.

But under incessant late Newcastle pressure, former Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey curled a sublime leveller into the top corner to send the match straight to spot kicks.

In the shootout Newport went down in the cruellest of fashions as Ryan Taylor had his effort from 12 yards saved and Brandon Cooper blazed over the bar.

“I am very proud. I couldn’t be prouder if I tried,” said Flynn. “We were excellent, it has taken a moment of magic to deny us.

“I know they had chances, but I thought we were brilliant and defended superbly. I’m a realist and I won’t get carried away. I know if we had won it would have been a massive, massive upset.


“The players Newcastle brought on was a big compliment to us and they did have a fair bit of possession, but we kept our shape and composure.”

Asked if it will be tough to raise his team for Saturday’s League Two clash with Mansfield after such a tough loss, Flynn added: “It won’t be hard at all. There is nothing to pick them up from.

“It’s easy to say now, but we should have gone in further ahead. It’s been a bugbear of mine we’re not killing teams off, but they are a great group and we will stick together.”

Swansea’s loan defender Cooper missed the game’s crucial penalty, but he had been superb over the course of the 90 minutes with three superb last-ditch tackles.

“I’ll not blame anyone for taking a penalty unless they try something stupid. The Newcastle players were very complimentary to the boys at the end,” Flynn said.

“It’s nice to win with class and their players were very good afterwards. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Steve Bruce side.”

Newport took the lead in the fifth minute when Scott Twine shot from 30 yards and his effort rebounded off the bar to Abrahams on the edge of the box. He found the bottom corner for his sixth of the season.

Newport were brilliant to a man and just before the break Scot Bennett and Padraig Amond had the best chances to make it 2-0.

In the second half Newcastle finally scored with their 21st attempt, but prior to that it looked like Newport would hold out.

Newcastle introduced Joelinton and Callum Wilson – who cost £60million between them – and they finally broke through via Shelvey.

Newport earned £125,000 in crucial funds for the game being on TV, but it would have been slim consolation.

“We beat Swansea and Watford with no crowd and we put on another very good performance,” said Flynn. “We wish the fans were here not only because of the revenue we’ve missed out on, but because they are our 12th man.”

Newcastle boss Bruce revealed his team celebrated their great escape with cold showers in the Rodney Parade changing rooms.

“It’s not something they’re used to and it was quite amusing,” he said.

“You can see how Newport have beaten Swansea and Watford.

“They get the goal early and, as if they didn’t have enough belief, that gave them a bit more. We found it difficult against them and hats off to them.

“They defended with their lives at the end. The way it was going I didn’t think we would get the breakthrough.

“Not taking our chances is our Achilles heel.”