James Justin’s first goal for almost two years helped Leicester down Newport but his slim World Cup hopes appear over.
The right-back was carried off in the second half of the 3-0 Carabao Cup win over the Exiles, as Jamie Vardy bagged a double to send the Foxes into the fourth round.
The right-back’s first goal since February 2021 at least gave Gareth Southgate a late reminder of his talents ahead of his squad announcement on Thursday, even if England suffered another defensive injury.
Justin, understood to be on the provisional 55-man list, became a viable option for Southgate after injuries to Reece James and Kyle Walker left them as doubts.
Despite his injury, it was a routine win for the Foxes as they avoided another shock against the Exiles.
Newport’s 2-1 FA Cup win against the Foxes in 2019 helped call time on Claude Puel’s reign and usher in Brendan Rodgers, who has faced the toughest time of his near four-year tenure this season.
But four wins from their last seven games have lifted Leicester off the bottom of the Premier League and eased any fears the manager had run out of road.
Despite the upturn in the league, Rodgers refused to allow Leicester to relax having squeezed past Stockport on penalties in the last round.
The cup did, at least, give him the opportunity to rest James Maddison – the focal point of their recent rise which has only seen the chorus of calls for his World Cup inclusion get louder.
The manager promised he would not allow another close call in the cup and the Foxes should have found an opener after eight minutes.
Vardy’s selflessness – and poor pass – allowed Adam Lewis to deny Ayoze Perez a tap-in when the pair broke clear.
Leicester, as expected, dominated with Perez and Dennis Praet firing wide and it was the perfect game to ease Jonny Evans and Wilfred Ndidi back in after their injury lay-offs with the Exiles offering little threat.
Yet the visitors were organised, their massed ranks filling the gaps the Foxes hoped to exploit, and while the pressure could never be called relentless Newport kept their focus.
When Leicester did find space goalkeeper Nick Townsend was quick to deny Harvey Barnes.
With nearly 90 per cent possession a goal seemed inevitable and it finally came a minute before the break.
Newport had enjoyed a brief spell with the ball but they switched off to allow Justin the opener and, while the build-up was simple, the finish was emphatic.
He collected a pass from Praet on the right, cut inside unchallenged and curled an excellent strike into the corner from 20 yards.
It was worth the wait for Justin, who scored his first goal since February last year – the same month he suffered a serious knee injury which sidelined him for almost a year.
But the 24-year-old was carried off just after the hour following an innocuous challenge.
Townsend thwarted Vardy soon after but he could not stop the striker making it 2-0 with 20 minutes left when he glanced in Marc Albrighton’s cross.
Vardy then added a third after 82 minutes, running onto Barnes’ pass, rounding Townsend and firing in.
What’s next for Leicester & Newport?
Leicester’s final game before the World Cup is a trip to West Ham on Saturday in the Premier League; kick-off 3pm.
Newport are also in action as they welcome Stockport to Rodney Parade in a League Two fixture; kick-off 3pm.