KEY duo Scot Bennett and Jamille Matt will leave Newport County AFC because the financial hit from the coronavirus crisis means the Exiles are offering no fresh contracts.

The duo have been mainstays of Michael Flynn’s side but the pandemic has led to an enforced exit of players from Rodney Parade.

Jay Foulston, Dominic Poleon and Momodou Touray also leave along with on-loan Jordan Green, Dale Gorman, Ryan Innis, Otis Khan, George Nurse and Billy Waters.

Defender Mark O'Brien retired last week because of a heart condition that requires surgery.

County are not in a position to offer fresh terms to anybody as they are braced for income to be down 40 per cent due to League Two games being played behind closed doors, potentially until 2021.

Around 1,400 players in the English Football League are out of contract and it is going to be a quiet summer in the lower leagues.

With the 2020/21 season starting later than usual – the Exiles are preparing for October, some believe it may be September – teams are likely to hold fire before even contemplating adding to their wage bill.

"It's a difficult position for everybody involved in football, which is different to any other industry,” said Newport chairman Gavin Foxall to the Argus earlier this month.

"In the summer there are something like 1,400 players out of contract and at the moment nobody knows when the season is going to be starting, so which club is going to sign a player when they don't know when they will need their services?

"That is very difficult for the individuals and their families. There are some difficult times ahead."

South Wales Argus:

Versatile Bennett arrived at Rodney Parade on loan from Notts County in October, 2015 and made 154 appearances.

The 29-year-old proved his value in defence and midfield and was a regular in the starting line-up in 2019/20, racking up 37 outings and scoring the goal that beat Leicester Under-21s in the Trophy and the winner against Bradford just before the coronavirus lockdown.

"It was not the way I saw it playing out or how I thought it would go," said Bennett on social media.
"Never been in this situation before, where the manager wants you to stay but can't (offer a deal), but these times are hard for all involved so no hard feelings.

"Now it looks like it's time to move on to a new chapter in my life.

"Over the last four and a half years I have had some of my best moments in football. The memories made will last forever."

Matt has been an influential figure since signing in the summer of 2018, amassing 97 appearances for Flynn’s side.

He formed a potent partnership with Padraig Amond and scored 20 goals in his first season in Wales, including the powerful header in the famous FA Cup win against Leicester when he climbed above Wes Morgan.

South Wales Argus:

The 30-year-old didn’t quite hit those heights last season but remained a constant and influential member of the matchday squad with 40 appearances, hitting the net six times.

"The last two years have been brilliant and there have been some great memories which I am proud to be a part of when I look back.

"Also, a big thank you to the gaffer and 'Hats' (assistant Wayne Hatswell) for bringing me to the club in the first place.

"The boys are some of the best I've played with, on and off the pitch, and some have become very close friends.

"It's not the way I envisioned leaving the club but we will cross paths again I'm sure."

Striker Poleon joined County last September but struggled to make an impact and was on loan at Dover when the season was suspended and then cancelled.

Defender Foulston, 19, played for Wales at age-grade level but found chances hard to come by at County and went on loan to Chippenham last season.

The story was similar for Touray with the 20-year-old dropping down the levels to play at Barry Town United.

County players under contract for next season: Tristan Abrahams, Padraig Amond, Ade Azeez, Ashley Baker, Lewis Collins, Mickey Demetriou, Matty Dolan, Marvel Ekpiteta, Ryan Haynes, Kyle Howkins, Tom King, Joss Labadie, Daniel Leadbitter, Josh Sheehan, Nick Townsend, Corey Whitely, Robbie Willmott.

Scholars under contract: Luis Bates, Callum Brain, Louie Cirotto, Connor Graham, Ryan Hillier, Aneurin Livermore, Zachary Maher, Lewys Twamley, Joe Woodiwiss.

Scholars released: Sioni Benham, Ioan Evans, Ryan George, Dominic Jefferies, Callum Jones, Elis Watts, Tom Wright, Ruben Fahiya.

First-year scholar intake: Harrison Bright, Iestyn Evans, Ethan Morgan, Evan Ovendale, Kian Pritchard, Callum Ryan-Phillips.