NEWPORT County AFC saw their Wembley dream ended in cruel fashion as they bowed out of the Leasing.com Trophy on penalties after a tense semi-final at Rodney Parade.

County dominated the second half at a packed Rodney Parade but they couldn’t find a way past the Salford City defence as the game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes.

And Tristan Abrahams and Ryan Inniss both missed from the spot to deny the Exiles a fifth trip to Wembley in eight seasons as Salford triumphed 6-5 on penalties.

If it was a great way for Graham Alexander to celebrate his 100th game as Ammies boss.

But it was cruel on Michael Flynn’s men. They gave everything but, as so often of late, they couldn’t find the net on a night of disappointment.

Flynn had made four changes from Saturday’s defeat at Mansfield Town, with Ryan Haynes and Josh Sheehan back from injury and Matty Dolan and Jamille Matt recalled to the starting XI.

Jordan Green and Abrahams dropped to the bench, while Billy Waters and Dale Gorman were cup-tied.

Haynes and Robbie Willmott started as wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation, with Scot Bennett at the heart of the defence.

And Willmott was the main attacking outlet for the hosts in an evenly contested first 45 minutes.

His early cross from the right for Joss Labadie produced County’s best chance in the first half, but the skipper’s shot was deflected behind.

Willmott then breezed past his man again but Matt couldn’t control his lofted ball into the box.

After a bright opening from Flynn’s men, the visitors enjoyed a period of pressure and carved out one or two half-chances.

Brandon Asante and Jake Jervis looked a real threat and Mickey Demetriou picked up an early booking for chopping down the former to prevent a counter-attack.

Demetriou did well to clear the danger as Thomas Elliott looked to get on the end of a Jervis cross from the left before Asante volleyed wide when a corner was only half cleared.

Tom King then did well to hold a fierce half-volley from Asante and Inniss got back to outmuscle Elliott when the big striker looked to be offside but the flag stayed down.

Demetriou also had to block a long-range effort from Richard Towell but neither side could break the deadlock before half-time.

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The promised rain finally arrived early in the second half as County poured forward in search of the opener.

Willmott whipped in a cross for Dolan but the midfielder could only send a glancing header well wide.

Labadie then went down under pressure in the box but referee Anthony Backhouse awarded only a goal-kick, much to the annoyance of the men in amber and the home fans.

Matt turned provider just before the hour as he beat former Manchester United man Darron Gibson, who was making his debut for Salford, and played a clever cut-back.

But Dolan’s shot hit Padraig Amond and the chance was gone.

The Exiles were well on top, however, and the crowd roared them on.

They claimed another penalty when Demetriou’s cross appeared to hit a Salford hand in the area and the influential Sheehan recorded County’s first shot on target with a low drive, forcing goalkeeper Christopher Neal to get down well to smother.

Flynn made his first change with a little over 20 minutes remaining as Amond made way for Green, whose pace and trickery kept the Salford defence on their toes in the closing stages.

The Ammies sent on former Cardiff City forward Craig Conway and ex-Manchester United striker James Wilson, while Lewis Collins replaced the injured Haynes.

County were on the front foot until the end but they couldn’t force a winner and the Wembley prize had to be settled with a shootout.

County: King; Bennett, Inniss, Demetriou; Willmott (Abrahams, 90), Sheehan, Labadie, Dolan, Haynes (Collins, 82); Matt, Amond (Green, 69)

Subs not used: Howkins, Woodiwiss, Jefferies

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 4,070 (187 Salford)

Argus star man: Willmott