Antoine becomes first casualty of squad trim

AFC EXIT: Departed striker Leon Antoine, who played for former club and divisional rivals Harlow Town this week
AFC EXIT: Departed striker Leon Antoine, who played for former club and divisional rivals Harlow Town this week

Last season’s top scorer Leon Antoine is the first player to be released by AFC Sudbury manager David Batch as he begins streamlining his squad.

The powerful frontrunner, who scored 14 times in 34 league appearances in his first season at King’s Marsh, has left as the Yellows chief reduces the size of his squad ahead of the new season.

Batch was carrying 22 players, including two trialists, but has now begun making decisions in order to trim that number to around 16 or 17.

Teenage wide player Peter Maina, who burst into the first-team last season, will be loaned out to gain more experience while decisions on others are now set to be made.

Of much-travelled striker Antoine’s departure, Batch said: “We have had five centre-forwards on our books which was too many.

“James Baker is a targetman who can hold the ball up well and is something unique.

“Ben Thompson and Antoine are probably similar ones in that they are 6ft and good running in the channels, but Ben is well ahead of Leon at the moment.

“Ben missed quite a bit of last season (with injury) and scored more goals (17) than Leon in another team.

“What I would say though is Leon is a great lad.

“I have only worked with him briefly, but he always wanted to learn.”

He added: “We have done this now so he can sort himself out.”

Decisions are still to be made on trialists Angelo Harrop and Michael N’Cho.

AFC host Cambridge United tomorrow night (7.45pm) before concluding their pre-season at Walsham-le-Willows on Tuesday (7.45pm).

They followed up wins over Gillingham (3-2) on Thursday and at Haverhill Rovers on Saturday (3-0) with a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Hadleigh United on Tuesday with several regulars missing.

The Yellows will play at Thurrock on the opening day of the season after their appeal against relegation was rejected at an arbitration hearing this week.

n AFC will play at rivals Bury Town in the Isthmian League Cup second round on October 31 and host Felixstowe and Walton United in the Suffolk Premier Cup on October 8.

n Reserves manager Ian Manby has left after a club review as they seek a new under-21s coach.