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PRE-MATCH | Wayne Hatswell: “I’m really excited to hear that noise behind us again and hopefully we can put smiles on their faces"

25 August 2021

Newport County AFC assistant manager Wayne Hatswell is relishing the return of a packed out Rodney Parade - and believes they can be the twelfth man against Premier League side Southampton.

900 supporters were allowed in for the Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final first leg against Forest Green Rovers in May, but Wednesday's fixture will be the first time since March 2020 that the Exiles will be cheered on by a bumper home crowd

The visit of the Saints will be the ninth of the current 20 Premier League clubs that the Exiles have taken on and, after spending the past month on the road, Hatswell is hoping it will be a memorable homecoming for the County fans.

"We had fans against Forest Green but it wasn't many and it was really strange,” said Hatswell.

"It was March 7, 2020 that we last had fans against Morecambe and there weren't over 5,000 for that game.

“With it being the first game back, it's one that we are looking forward to. I am really excited to hear that noise behind us again, we've not heard that for a while.

"We've had some tough places to go to this season and they have had some big crowds, so it will be nice for them to be with us and making it difficult for the opposition.

“It will be good to have them back and hopefully we can put smiles on their faces."

County had to play all bar two of their 2021/22 fixtures without the backing of the Amber Army, including the two cup games against Premier League sides Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion. 

But they have witnessed the Exiles pull of giant killings against Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Leicester City on home soil in recent seasons.

And Hatswell says they can play their part in chalking up another on their lengthy list of cup scalps.

“We've got to soak up that atmosphere and some of the players haven’t even been to Rodney Parade before," he added.

“We are going to enjoy it and when we go over for the clap after the warm-up, a sprint in front of the terrace, that always makes the hairs on your neck stand up.

“The players will use that energy that will be created and we will hopefully give them a game.”

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