A ROBBIE Willmott wonder strike was enough to earn Newport County AFC a place in round two of the FA Cup for the first time in 27 years.

The wing-back’s sublime free-kick on the stroke of half-time finally killed off the dogged resistance of Conference side Braintree Town in this first round replay.

The sides had drawn 1-1 in Essex earlier this month but it is Justin Edinburgh’s men who will be travelling to Kidderminster Harriers in round two on December 7.

That will be County’s first time in round two since the 1986/87 season when they beat Bromsgrove Rovers in the first round before losing 2-0 at Fulham in the second round.

The reformed club made round one in 2001/02, 2006/07 and 2011/12 but have never been to the second round before now.

A little bit of history then for the Exiles, who announced the signing of 18-year old striker Joe Parker from Gloucester City before the match.

He was introduced to the sparse crowd on a bitterly cold night at Rodney Parade but will stay on loan at Gloucester for the remainder of the season.

And while his new County teammates can continue to dream of Wembley on three fronts this season the youngster is already guaranteed a trip to England’s national stadium for the FA Cup final in May.

He was named player of the round for his heroics against Yate Town, County’s cup conquerors last season, when he marked only his second Gloucester start with a superb 19-minute hat-trick in the 7-0 third qualifying round replay.

There was no fresh blood in the Exiles starting XI, however, as Edinburgh opted to field an unchanged team from Friday’s highly impressive victory over Hartlepool United.

And that meant that goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley started less than two hours after the birth of his daughter Paige.

He might as well have stayed at the hospital for all the action in a decidedly low-key first 45 minutes.

The Exiles stopper made routine saves from Matt Paine and Dan Holman as the part-timers from Essex made most of the running but created little.

County created even less and looked a shadow of the side that had ripped into Portsmouth and Pools only days before.

But one moment of class from Willmott gave them the lead at the break.

Conor Washington was chopped down by Ryan Peters just to the left of the penalty area and the hirsute hero stepped up to the plate.

Willmott picked his spot and fired into the top corner, giving Braintree goalkeeper Nik Hamman no chance.

It was a sublime goal totally out of keeping with the rest of the half and it sparked the game into life, relatively speaking, after the break.

Ismail Yakubu almost doubled County’s lead six minutes after the interval as he headed Willmott’s corner just over the bar.

At the other end danger man Holman fired just over the top under pressure before County countered and forced Hamman into smart saves from Harry Worley and Adam Chapman.

Danny Crow saw a near-post header plucked from the air on the line by Hamman, who threatened to be the hero again for the Iron after his brilliant display in the first match.

New dad Pidgeley won’t see many clean sheets at home in the near future but he was determined to chalk another one up between the posts for County.

He did superbly to beat away a rasping drive from Braintree skipper Kenny Davis.

Washington almost eased the tension of the home crowd as he raced through on Hamman’s goal with four minutes remaining but the Iron ‘keeper again came out on top.

In the end though the hosts didn’t need a second and they march on after recording a third home win in a third different competition in just eight days.

County assistant manager Jimmy Dack said: "We knew it was going to be tough. Braintree are having a good season, didn't have anything to lose really and came here and gave a good show.

"It was about attitude tonight. To be fair to the boys they had a go. The pitch was a bit bobbly and we did try and pass it at times.

"We weren't as good as we were [against] Hartlepool but you're not going to be great every week."

County: Pidgeley, Jackson, Yakubu, Worley, Oshilaja, Willmott, Naylor (Flynn, 85), Chapman, Crow, Jolley (Minshull, 69), Washington

Subs not used: Stephens, Hughes, James, Jones

Booked: Crow

Braintree: Hamman, Peters, Habergham, Isaac, Paine, Davis, Marks, Holman (Quinton, 83), Daley (Enver-Marum, 68), Wells, Mulley (Cox, 89)

Booked: Isaac, Peters

Subs not used: McDonald, Sparkes, Griffiths, Carney

Referee: Andy Davies

Attendance: 1,406

Argus star man: Robbie Willmott