NELSON Sanca isn’t yet old enough to legally enjoy a pint of Guinness but the Newport County AFC teenager can be reassured that good things come to those who wait.

The defender was an unused substitute against Barnet in the FA Cup at Rodney Parade on Saturday, once again watching on from behind manager Graham Coughlan in the dugout.

It was the sixth game on the spin that the young prospect had been on the bench without getting a first taste of senior action, but he’s not alone.

County’s well-documented injury crisis has left them down to the bare bones and a raft of talented teens have been promoted ahead of time to cover for emergencies.

Midfielder Corey Evans has three times been an unused sub, forward Alfie Young six times, goalkeeper Fraser Needham twice.

Last season defender Harrison Page was in matchday squads without getting on and midfielder Riley Lonergan, who featured in pre-season, may well have been in the same boat had he not suffered a serious knee injury.

Coughlan and assistant Joe Dunne have backgrounds in age-grade football but the manager, who works closely with academy manager Luke Hussey, is not interested in just racking up debuts for the sake of it.

South Wales Argus: Nelson Sanca warming up with County at MansfieldNelson Sanca warming up with County at Mansfield (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“I have been consistent with my messages to the academy lads – if you are good enough then there are opportunities at this club if you earn them by showing a willingness to work hard,” said the boss, who also went with his first-teamers in the EFL Trophy.

“Nelson is one of the young lads that we have had on the bench and around us, so there is definitely a pathway and a working relationship [with the academy].

“I just want the young lads to understand how hard it is in this industry and how hard you have to work, the extra hours that you have to put in.”

Coughlan gave opportunities in pre-season to Lonergan, Page, Evans and Moses Alexander-Walker and the boss hopes that one of his impact subs is a role model to the next generation.

Kiban Rai had to bide his time last season and after some cameos made his first EFL start in the finale against Crewe.

The energetic forward has had to be patient in the current campaign but scored a first goal to force the Carabao Cup tie against Premier League Brentford to penalties and has featured 14 times in all competitions.

South Wales Argus: TALENT: County forward Kiban RaiTALENT: County forward Kiban Rai (Image: Press Association)

“It would be nice to give lads a run out but I hope that they see Kiban and his progress and want to follow in his footsteps,” said Coughlan.

“We’ve also got Matty Bondswell, Josh Seberry, Lewis Payne and Seb Palmer-Houlden – there are a lot of young lads in the squad, and at times we do show our inexperience and naivety.

“I hope our academy lads look at them and think ‘the gaffer will give us an opportunity, then it’s up to me to grab it’.

“But giving opportunities willy-nilly for the sake of it, I’m not sure that’s me. I will give opportunities when they are deserved and I’m not going to hand things out too easily. They need to work hard and show how badly they want it.”

The teens should be able to spend more time with their peers now that County’s injury problems have eased with the recent returns of James Clarke, Seb Palmer-Houlden, Harry Charsley and Aaron Wildig.