Scot Bennett | “I’m really looking forward to the occasion…”

Long-serving Exile Scot Bennett is poised for a “real special” occasion as he prepares to make his 350th appearance in Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup clash with Manchester United.

Newport County welcome Erik ten Hag’s men in the first-ever meeting between the two sides following wins against Oldham Athletic, Barnet and Eastleigh in the opening rounds of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition. 

Over the years, County has welcomed some huge names to Rodney Parade in the FA Cup, accumulating several upsets against Leicester City, Leeds United and holding Tottenham Hotspur to a famous replay at Wembley.

And with County once again under the FA Cup spotlight, Bennett says he is relishing yet another memorable occasion for himself and the club. 

“I’m really looking forward to the occasion,” began Bennett. 

“It’s almost written in the stars for me really to be making my 350th appearance against a team I supported when I was younger so that makes it even sweeter. 

“It’s always been a dream to play for them or against them [Manchester United] so to get that opportunity makes it really special. 

“For me, it’s the biggest game I would have played in since my time here. I supported the club as a child growing up and they’re one of the biggest teams in the world. Having Man City and Tottenham previously was massive for the club, and even Leicester too, but I do think this one is a step up. 

“It’s been a real positive week following the recent results. We went into the Eastleigh game looking for a run of positive results and we managed to do that, so you can see this week there’s a real buzz around the group ahead of Sunday.” 

Bennett joined the club initially on loan back in October 2015 from Notts County before returning to his parent club just five months later. But after signing a permanent deal with the Exiles in June 2016, the versatile player has gone on to enjoy an illustrious career in South Wales, becoming a real fan favourite around Rodney Parade.

From the great escape to a play-off final at Wembley, the defensive midfielder has been a part of some special games but he believes welcoming Manchester United could well be the biggest one yet since his time in South Wales. 

“Playing at Newport has definitely been one of the best parts of my career,” Bennett added.  

“With the games I’ve played in and the different situations the club has found itself in, whether that be staying up on the last day, getting the games against Manchester City and Tottenham, and a trip to Wembley in the play-offs, it’s always been a real special time for me at Newport.

“Me and Nick [Townsend] have been fortunate to have previously experienced big games like this at Rodney Parade, but so have Bryn [Morris] with Grimsby last season and a few others have had big cup ties too. 

“There’s a lot of experience in the dressing room and hopefully we can utilise that on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to the occasion now and I just can’t wait to get out there.”

After three consecutive wins on the bounce and just one defeat in their last ten league and cup outings, Graham Coughlan’s side head into Sunday’s tie against the 12-time FA Cup winners full of momentum

And despite the odds being stacked against County, the No.17 says he and his teammates will be giving it all they can to cause a potential cup upset. 

He finished: “We can definitely take a lot of confidence from the last few games.

“We're not playing on Sunday just to make the numbers up, we’re going out to try and pull off an underdog story. 

“We want to be out there to perform and we want to carry on our good run of form.”