NEWPORT County AFC will hunt a like-for-like replacement for Finn Azaz when the star midfielder leaves big boots to fill this summer.

The loanee will return to Aston Villa after Saturday’s League Two finale against Rochdale at Rodney Parade, his 45th and final appearance in amber.

The 21-year-old has enjoyed a stunning campaign in Newport and showed in the 2-1 win at promotion-chasing Port Vale why he was named as the division’s young player of the season.

Azaz set up Ryan Haynes’ opener and then scored the winner with a crisp volley with his weaker left foot on the edge of the box.

The attacking midfielder spent last season in League Two when helping Cheltenham win the title and has been a key figure for the Exiles.

Azaz has scored seven goals, provided six assists and forced an own goal at Swindon for a last-gasp winner.

He is second for shots per game (2.6) behind top scorer Dom Telford, leads for key passes (1.8) and dribbles (0.9) while his importance in the press is shown by him being third for tackles per game (2).

The loss of the Villa prospect and fellow loanees Ollie Cooper (Swansea) and Jake Cain (Liverpool) will leave big holes to fill.

January signing James Waite will become a more influential figure after an impressive start to his career in Newport while manager James Rowberry and sporting director Darren Kelly will tap into the loan market again.

“We will recruit within the style that we want to play, which is how we are playing. I am strong and passionate about that,” said the boss, who said last week that the club have been approached by Premier League and Championship sides about taking young talents on loan.

“We are still learning and make certain errors in the game but they are not effort errors, they are skill errors and we are trying to get better every day.”

South Wales Argus: DELIGHT: Finn Azaz celebrates his winner for CountyDELIGHT: Finn Azaz celebrates his winner for County

“He has done terrifically. There are still elements in his game that he can improve but you can see what he is about and what he tries to do,” Rowberry continued about Azaz.

“He could have made life easy for himself but he is a driven individual and I admire that.”

County headed to Vale with their play-off hopes over but produced a dramatically improved performance to end a three-game losing streak.

They have lost four on the spin at Rodney Parade and Rowberry wants to sign off with a success against Rochdale, with the Exiles unable to drop below their current 11th but able to leapfrog Salford and Tranmere to ninth.

“We’ve got to keep the momentum. It’s our last game at home and I have said to the lads that when we are able to go around the pitch [thanking the fans] like Port Vale did I want it to be off the back of a win,” said the manager.