Cheltenham Town: Alan Bennett will salute 'fantastic' Robins fans on his Whaddon Road return
ALAN Bennett is looking forward to saluting the Abbey Business Stadium crowd tomorrow as he makes his return to Cheltenham Town.
The former skipper joined AFC Wimbledon last month after a successful 18-month spell with the Robins.
His final appearance was the televised FA Cup third-round tie against Everton and things moved very quickly on January 31 as he agreed to leave the club by mutual consent shortly before the 11pm transfer deadline.
The Irishman has already made six appearances for his new club, who are unbeaten in their last four matches.
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Bennett said that come 3pm, he will be doing all he can to pick up more points in the Dons' battle against the drop, but he will take a moment to thank the home fans for their support during his time in Mark Yates' squad.
"I would have stayed, but my hand was forced really when the gaffer brought in two defenders on loan and I was told there was nothing there for me in the summer," Bennett said.
"But there were no rows and there is absolutely no animosity and after tomorrow's match I hope Cheltenham go on and win promotion because everyone at the club deserves it.
"The fans were great to me and I know a lot of them on a personal level because it's that kind of club.
"I have a lot of time for a lot of people there and I can't speak highly enough about Cheltenham Town.
"It was an honour to play at the back with someone like Stevie Elliott and I've been in touch with a lot of the lads.
"I think Marlon (Pack) staying could be a real stroke of luck for the club."
Bennett has had to adjust quickly from being an automatic choice in a side pushing for promotion to suddenly playing in one battling to preserve their League status.
He was named man of the match in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle and Dons boss Neal Ardley has been happy with his influence.
"The gaffer has taken me to one side and told me he's pleased with what I am doing and that's always nice to hear," Bennett said.
"I haven't really changed anything and I think I'm a steady performer.
"The Plymouth game was tight and tense, with neither side wanting to lose, and it's been the first time I've been involved with a club battling against relegation really.
"I went to Wycombe on loan for games when they were already down, but this is new."
Bennett has been paired with former Brentford colleague Pim Balkestein and skipper Mat Mitchell-King at the heart of the Dons' defence.
He has also enjoyed playing in front of the vastly experienced goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, who played for the original Wimbledon before the club was taken to Milton Keynes.
"Neil Sullivan is 43 years old and such an experienced head," Bennett said.
"We lost the first two games I played in against Port Vale and Chesterfield and a few words were said, which was needed.
"Neil started speaking and everyone listened. He said that he has been relegated twice before and the pain lasts twice as long as the joy of promotion.
"Our coach Simon Bassey, who has been involved since the club was formed in 2002, said if we go down this season the last ten years of progress will have been for nothing.
"The gaffer here is ultra-professional and he's changing the culture of the club and it's in transition now, but the fans are unbelievable and we are scrapping for our lives to get out of trouble."
Bennett's move has been helped by the fact he has moved back into his house in South West London with his partner.
"I just grabbed my toothbrush and left really," he said.
"The geography was a big factor, but I think I am going to miss out on the races at Cheltenham because we have away games at Southend, Accrington and Aldershot that week, so a few of my friends from Ireland are going to be disappointed!"