JAMES Waite can fill the big boots of loan stars Finn Azaz and Ollie Cooper at Newport County AFC next season, believes a midfield lynchpin.

Stalwart Scot Bennett has done the donkey work to allow the Exiles flashier midfielders to shine this season.

He has helped lay a platform for Aston Villa prospect Azaz to win the League Two young player of the season award while Swansea’s Cooper was enjoying a superb campaign until injury ruled him out of the run-in.

That led to an unexpected opportunity for Waite, the 22-year-old from Sebastopol who arrived in January from Penybont in the Cymru Premier.

The initial plan was to slowly introduce the midfielder, who came through at Cardiff City, but instead he has made 16 appearances, nine of them starts.

South Wales Argus: James Waite on the ball for CountyJames Waite on the ball for County

“Waitey has done very well,” said Bennett. “A lot of people would look at him and say he is small but he has got great feet and his movement and energy is unbelievable.

“He has come in for Coops, who was a big player for us, and filled his boots really well.

“He has already shown what he can do and with a bit more on a shoulders he will only grow into the role. He has only been with us for a short period and with a full pre-season he will only get better.

“He is a feisty character, he is tenacious, gets stuck in and is not scared to put in a tackle.

“Then he has the other side with great feet, good vision on the ball and we look forward to seeing what he can do next season.”

Sadly, County are already able to start thinking of 2022/23 after a poor run-in dashed hopes of automatic promotion and then the play-offs.

A positive from an unwanted situation is that they will at least have a good break before returning for a first pre-season under James Rowberry.

South Wales Argus: STALWART: County midfielder Scot BennettSTALWART: County midfielder Scot Bennett

“We are all disappointed with how the season has finished but we have two games left and if we win them then at least we have finished on a slight high,” said Bennett, with this afternoon’s trip to Port Vale followed by a home clash with Rochdale on Saturday.

“It has been a frustrating six weeks because we had a great chance of automatic promotion and now we have even missed out on the play-offs.

“We've got two games to perform in, have a break and then come back ready to go.”

Bennett has made 32 appearances this season and happily in a position of heading into a summer with his future sorted for next season.

That was after a nightmare 2020 in which County were unable to offer fresh terms because of the financial impact of coronavirus.

The pandemic also led to Bennett’s wedding being postponed but a new date has been booked for June and he will tie the knot before returning for another promotion push.

“We will have a longer pre-season and the gaffer will do his stuff in the summer and bring more players in,” said the 31-year-old.

“It gives that little bit of extra time to get to know his philosophies and how he wants us to play, to be in the new players and then hit the ground running.

“We will go again next year and hopefully be a bit more consistent at the back end of the season when it matters most.

“Hopefully we can go one step further and get that promotion that we are all desperate for.”