The Exiles opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a fine strike, but a determined Devon side netted an equaliser four minutes after half-time through Cheick Diabate, before Lewis Wilson (2) and Louis Morison completed the victory.
The hosts, starting with a strong looking line-up, enjoyed plenty of the early possession but County broke the deadlock with their first effort at goal. A short free-kick found one Newport midfielder lurking on the edge of the penalty area. He created some space before firing low into the back of the net through a crowd of bodies.
The Exiles then won a penalty following Jack Veale’s tackle in the box, but the spot-kick clipped the post and ran away to safety much to the relief of Gribble and his players.
That forced the home team into some sort of reaction but both Charlie Lawrence’s long-range effort and Nelson Iseguan’s header were relatively simple for the County shot-stopper to save.
It meant the Devonians went into the break behind, but they came out after the break in much better form.
Jack Veale saw a volley saved smartly on 48 minutes and from the resulting corner, Lawrence’s delivery was met by a powerful header from Diabate and the ball flew past the visiting keeper to restore parity.
The momentum was certainly with City’s youngsters, which started to frustrate the away side. Halfway through the second half, one Newport player collected his second yellow card for a foul on Alfie Pond.
Despite substitutions being made, Exeter continued to come forward and create chances.
And three minutes after his introduction from the bench, Wilson finished off a superb team move to put his side ahead. Iseguan combined with Max Clarke on the left flank, before the latter crossed for Theo Simpson. The striker collided with a scrambling goalkeeper but Wilson stooped and headed the ball into an empty goal to make it 2-1.
Morison saw a direct free-kick go narrowly wide before he scored a deserved goal with 17 minutes remaining by peeling away from his marker at the far post to net.
The offensive pressure continued from City as the game reached the latter stages. Simpson went close on two occasions as he led the line with the intent of putting the game beyond all doubt.
However, it was Wilson who sealed the victory with a goal in injury time. The play was switched to the left side, which saw Iseguan take on his opposite number. The winger’s pull back found Wilson 10 yards out and his shot went in off the post to make it 4-1, securing the perfect result from a tricky first league fixture for Gribble and his players.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, said: “I’m delighted to get the three points. I thought we thoroughly deserved the win. Newport are always a tough nut to crack, and we knew they would be hard to break down.
“It was a nervy first half, and there was a bit of opening day uncertainty. I felt like we were doing the right things, but there wasn’t enough freedom in our play. We wanted to play without fear in the second half, and express ourselves a bit more.
“The missed penalty shook us into life. We brought energy to our performance in the second half, and showed no fear in both defence, and with the ball. I think the players ended up believing in themselves a little more.
“Lewis Wilson was unfortunate not to start. Sometimes as a coach you have to have difficult conversations, but I told Lewis we would need him, and he ended up being the perfect player to bring on. He executed his job well, which is a credit to him.
“More often than not a win is down to a team performance. We needed everyone to be on the same page. I trusted the players to do what I had asked of them, and I feel every single one of them increased their energy and performance levels. We had one or two individuals showing the right levels in the first half, but we proved that we needed all 11 boys working together in that second period. The victory was very much down to the team game.
“Ultimately, despite the victory, we are disappointed with the goal we have conceded. We pride ourselves on set pieces, both in attack and in defence, but it was just a massive lapse in concentration from us. We showed a few nerves and we have to do better than that.
“We can’t rely on a good 45 minutes to win us matches too. We might have got away with a scare here going a goal behind, but on another day we could be punished. We have got to start games right, play with no fear because that is a part of our football DNA and that is how we want to play.”
Exeter City under-18s: Jack Arthur, Cheick Diabate, Jack Stafford, Alfie Pond, Max Clarke, Louis Morison, Alex Moyse, Nelson Iseguan, Charlie Lawrence, Jack Veale, Theo Simpson. Subs not used: Harry Lee, Zeph Collins, Jamie Nicholson, Lewis Wilson, A Trialist