Castle edging closer to finalising squad

Saints boss whittling down the trialists as pre-season preparations continue

CITY boss Steve Castle is continuing to run the rule over a number of trialists as he attempts to build a squad capable of competing in Blue Square Bet South next season.

Striker Inih Effiong continued his impressive pre-season form with a well taken brace as City lost 4-2 to Brackley on Wednesday evening and Castle admitted he is beginning to whittle the squad down.

The Saints boss felt the squad’s trip to Northamptonshire was a fair reflection of the standard of sides they’d face this season and hopes the club’s numerous youngsters learn from the experience.

“It’s a step in our progression,” Castle told the Herts Advertiser afterwards.

“I said to the lads after the Watford and Leyton Orient games our pre-season starts now.

“They’ve (Brackley) got a very big budget and they’ve got aspirations of getting out of their league so that’s more of a realistic target of us we’ll be playing in the Conference South week in week out.”

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“There’s an awful lot of youngsters out there with a lot of inexperience and if they can learn from things then we’re going to have better players on our hands.”

Effiong has really caught the eye after returning to the club in the summer. The striker spent last season with Boreham Wood where his appearances were mainly restricted to the reserves but the young striker has spent a lot of time in the gym during the close season building up his strength and that hard work appears to be paying dividends.

“I’m pleased for him,” Castle said of the striker’s performance.

“All I really want to look at are the plus points, there are obviously some negatives there but two goals there for Inih, that’s good.”

One downside for City was a number of minor knocks sustained by key players but Castle’ isn’t envisaging too many long term absentees.

Ryan Frater was forced off with a slight hamstring twinge and Mark Peters and Adam Everitt picked up groin and knee injuries all of which are expected to clear up before City’s next action.

Castle admitted continuity has been difficult this summer because of the high number of trialists but feels that issue is being addressed.

“The continuity is just not there at the moment,” said the City chief.

“Slowly but surely they’re getting fitter. You’ve got people like Ross Dedman who’s missed everything so far, Pete (Smith) who’s missed tonight. It is a little bit bitty but it gives the other lads a chance.

“Drew Roberts has gone on holiday so it gives us the opportunity to look at Leon Simpson and Inih Effiong as a pairing. Glodi Kweme’s getting a look in as well, I’m just looking at the positives, there’s a lot of inexperience out there and hopefully they’ll come out of it in a positive vein.

“I did say to the lads that have been on trial that what I do like to do is at least give them a fighting chance for me to have a look. They’ve had at least two games, if not competitive games then practice games at Smallford and a few of them have been involved in the last two or three games in pre-season. I’ve had a thorough look and it’ll get whittled down pretty quick.”

City are still without a win so far in pre-season and although Castle admitted results are irrelevant in friendlies he says a clean sheet is overdue.

“Now a clean sheet is needed,” he explained.

“When you’ve got people like Paul Bastock, Ryan Frater, Adam Everitt and Mark Peters in the team then you should be looking for clean sheets. We’ll have a little change around and injury permitting make sure we get ourselves nice and solid and still try to play reasonably attractive football to boot.”

Pete Smith missed the trip to Brackley because of a toe injury but Castle hopes to have his star left-back back in action by the weekend.

“He just had a bit of a bang on his toe, I just don’t think he really fancied the journey from Islington,” the Saints boss joked.

“All jokes aside he’ll be ok by the weekend.”