James Justin’s first goal in nearly two years helped Leicester overcome Newport, but his slim World Cup hopes seem dated.
The right-back was brought down in the second half of the 3-0 Carabao Cup win over the Exiles as Jamie Vardy netted a brace to send the Foxes into the fourth round.
The right-back’s first goal since February 2021 at least reminded Gareth Southgate of his talents ahead of his team’s announcement on Thursday, even though England suffered another defensive injury.
Justin, believed to be on the provisional 55-man roster, has become a viable option for Southgate after injuries to Reece James and Kyle Walker left them in doubt.
Despite his injury, it was a routine win for the Foxes as they avoided another clash against the Exiles.
Newport’s 2-1 FA Cup win over the Foxes in 2019 helped end Claude Puel’s reign and usher in Brendan Rodgers, who has endured the toughest time of his nearly four-year tenure this season .
But four wins in their last seven games have lifted Leicester from the bottom of the Premier League and allayed fears the manager has run out of steam.
Despite the league resuming, Rodgers refused to allow Leicester to relax after overtaking Stockport on penalties in the final round.
The cut has at least given him the chance to rest James Maddison – the focal point of their recent rise which has only seen the chorus of calls for his inclusion in the World Cup grow 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 cleared.
Leicester, as expected, dominated with Perez and Dennis Praet shooting wide and it was the perfect game to bring back Jonny Evans and Wilfred Ndidi after their injury dismissals, with the Exiles offering little threat.
Still, the visitors were organised, their massive ranks filling the gaps the Foxes hoped to exploit, and while the pressure could never be called relentless, Newport remained focused.
When Leicester found space, goalkeeper Nick Townsend was quick to turn Harvey Barnes away.
With almost 90% possession, a goal seemed inevitable and it finally arrived a minute before the break.
Newport had taken advantage of a brief spell with the ball but they powered off to allow Justin the opener and, although the build was simple, the finish was emphatic.
He collected a pass from Praet on the right, cut inside unchallenged and curled an excellent shot into the corner from 20 yards out.
It was worth the wait 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 swept away just after the hour mark following a harmless challenge.
Townsend thwarted Vardy soon after but couldn’t prevent the striker from making it 2-0 20 minutes from time when he eyed Marc Albrighton’s cross .
Vardy then added a third after 82 minutes, running over Barnes’ pass, rounding Townsend and shooting.
What’s next for Leicester and Newport?
Leicester’s final game before the World Cup is a trip to West Ham on Saturday in the Premier League; kick off 3 p.m.
Newport are also in action as they host Stockport at Rodney Parade in a League Two game; kick off 3 p.m.