UPDATE: Saints sign former St Albans City Youth keeper to replace Bastock

Joe Welch

Joe Welch - Credit: Archant

Paul Bastock was released by St Albans City on Saturday with the club moving quickly to snap up his likely replacement just four days later.

The 44-year-old was an integral part of City’s return to Conference South after a three-year hiatus but he will not be between the sticks next season. Instead, on Tuesday, the Saints announced the arrival of Joe Welch, a 25-year-old goalkeeper with experience in the Conference.

“The main reason for the change is that we are going into a tougher division and there are things we need to work on week in week out in training,” explained joint manager James Gray.

“Joe is a local lad who lives in Stevenage so he can be with the lads three times a week. We never held it against Bazza, who lives in Boston, because he was superb but when you want to work on things and you don’t have your first choice keeper it is more difficult.”

City head into this season with two young goalkeepers in Welch and 21-year-old Tom Coulton but Gray has no problem in trusting them to fill void left by Bastock.

“Joe is very, very experienced despite his age. He’s played a lot of games in the Conference Premier and Conference South and he comes highly regarded,” Gray told the Herts Ad.

“We’re really pleased to have him and hopefully we can get the best out of him.”

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Speaking of Bastock, Gray added: “He made some vital saves, the two in the semi-final against Cambridge [City] were crucial. He was a top professional, he trains everyday and he probably has two or three years left in him.

“We wish him the best. We’ll miss him but we have to move on.”

Welch’s arrival is the latest of a string of re-signings. The club announced this week that James Comley, Ben Martin, Darren Locke and Steve Wales have committed to the Saints.

Still, Gray is hoping for two or three more signings before the start of pre-season.

One player who won’t be back is Chris Watters. The former Boreham Wood midfielder has agreed to join ex-St Albans manager Steve Castle at Royston Town as a player/assistant.