NEWPORT County AFC were knocked out of the EFL Trophy after being beaten 1-0 by Bristol Rovers in a winner-takes-all clash at Rodney Parade.

The League One side progress to the last 32 as runners-up to West Ham Under-21s thanks to their triumph, and the consolation is that at least ensures there isn’t another fixture for Graham Coughlan’s injury-hit squad.

Rovers, who went strong given that they don’t have a fixture this weekend due to international calls, bossed the first half and led 1-0 thanks to Anthony Evans’ powerful hit from a corner in the 37th minute.

However, County stayed in the fight and with a bit more quality in the final third in a strong finish could have forced a penalty shootout.

Instead it is the Gas that will go on their travels in the knockout stages, and deservedly so, while Coughlan’s men concentrate on their bread and butter.

While the EFL Trophy does have handy cash rewards, the Exiles could have done without this fixture ahead of a tough weekend trip to promotion-chasing Mansfield given the amount of seniors on the treatment table.

That means that Coughlan won’t lose too much sleep about missing out on an away tie on December 5 in between the FA Cup tie with Barnet and the key League Two trip to struggling Tranmere.

South Wales Argus: CHANCE: County striker Olly ThomasCHANCE: County striker Olly Thomas (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

His options were limited because of the long list of absentees and he made two changes to the starting line-up that dug deep for a 0-0 draw with MK Dons.

Wales Under-21s duty meant that Matt Baker missed out with midfielder James Waite coming in for him, meaning that right-back/left-back/wing-back/midfielder Shane McLoughlin added central defender to his repertoire alongside Scot Bennett and Ryan Delaney.

Teenage Bristol City prospect Olly Thomas got a rare opportunity up front, his first start, with Omar Bogle dropping to the bench ahead of Saturday’s trip to Field Mill.

There was a double boost on a five-man bench where fit-again James Clarke and Seb Palmer-Houlden had the possibility of blowing away some cobwebs.

Clarke, a former Rovers defender, hadn’t featured since a groin injury against Bradford in September while physical Bristol City striker Palmer-Houlden’s impressive start to life at Rodney Parade was scuppered when the teenager pulled a hamstring straight after coming on against Premier League Brentford in August.

Academy youngsters Nelson Sanca and Alfie Young were also named as substitutes while the Gas featured former County forward Aaron Collins in their XI.

Rovers should have hit the front in the 10th minute when John Marquis was in on goal but the experienced striker was tentative and allowed McLoughlin to recover and get a toe in.

The Exiles had a chance in the 17th minute when visiting centre-back Josh Grant lost possession and Lewis Payne pinged a cross in to the unmarked Olly Thomas around the penalty spot but the youngster’s touch, with back to goal, was heavy and the opportunity went.

Rovers were inches away from the lead in the 21st minute when Luke Thomas neatly worked some space on the edge of the area and his left-footed curler hit the outside of Nick Townsend’s right post.

The League One side were looking the more dangerous while the Exiles were in a 5-4-1 with Will Evans and Nathan Wood providing width.

It was one-way traffic and Rovers nearly hit the front after 36 minutes when a dangerous cross was deflected just past his post by Bennett.

However, the opener came from the resulting corner with a move putting Evans into space and he leathered a shot/cross high past Townsend.

The Exiles were lucky to go into the break just one goal down after Collins was denied a cracker by the crossbar then Marquis failed in another one-on-one, Townsend blocking well after initially being hesitant in coming out.

South Wales Argus: Bryn Morris on the charge for County against Bristol RoversBryn Morris on the charge for County against Bristol Rovers (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Coughlan made a change at the break by brining on Bogle, a certain starter at Mansfield, for Olly Thomas, who one imagines will return to Bristol in January.

Rovers remained on top without troubling Townsend with Evans wasting a pair of free-kicks in dangerous positions as it remained 1-0 past the hour.

Bogle wanted a penalty after 63 minutes after being dragged to the ground but, as happens so frequently in League Two, the decision went the other way after the grappling.

That was followed by the return of Clarke and Palmer-Houlden to get valuable minutes ahead of the more important fixtures, James Waite and Nathan Wood the men to make way.

However, it was a Rovers sub that nearly came up with the telling moment only for former Manchester City, Celtic and Swansea forward Scott Sinclair to be denied by a terrific Townsend block from Chris Martin’s cross.

It remained a one-goal game and the Exiles went close twice in a minute when Bryn Morris was just beaten to a dangerous cross by a defender and then Rovers ‘keeper Jed Ward was inches away from punching a corner into his own net.

County kept pushing as 90 approached with Bogle mishitting a half-chance and Will Evans failing to reproduce the cracker from distance that sealed the win at Cheltenham in the EFL Trophy opener.

There were appeals for a handball in the 90th minute but referee Farai Hallam was unmoved and that meant there was to be no shootout for a spot in the last 32.

County: Townsend, Payne, Bennett, Delaney (captain), Bondswell, McLoughlin, Morris, Waite (Clarke 66), Wood (Palmer-Houlden 66), Evans, Thomas (Bogle 45).

Subs not used: Maxted, Sanca, Young.

Yellow: McLoughlin.

Bristol Rovers scorer: A Evans.

Referee: Farai Hallam.

Attendance: 1,346 (293 Rovers).