BILLERICAY Town manager Craig Edwards has backed powerful striker Ricky Sappleton to score 25 goals this season and help fire his side to a promotion push.

The 24-year-old Jamaican was in and out of the side at the end of last season as concerns over his fitness and form surfaced, but the hitman made his comeback with a 20-minute cameo against Conference South side Hemel Hempstead Town on Saturday. He scored two goals, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 pre-season win.

Edwards praised Sappleton for his scoring return and said Sappleton was the “fittest he has ever seen him”.

“Ricky is one of the best at this level without a doubt,” said Edwards. “Given that, I am looking for 25 goals from him this season and he knows it. “He can have a big impact in helping us achieve our goals this year and, although there is more to a team than one player, he is important for us.

“If we can have two strikers scoring more than 20 goals then we are in an excellent position to be challenging at the top of the division. We will find out whether Isaac Layne will stay with us this week and there is another striker we are hoping will sign for us.”

Javlon Campbell, another Town striker, also scored for Billericay at the weekend, making it 12 goals in only three matches so far this pre-season.

Town have added a number of new faces to their squad in the past week, with full backs Glenn O’Hanlon and Matt Pooley, central midfielders Cyrus Mahler and ex-Southend United youth team captain Jack Edwards and also goalkeeper Marko Cancar signing up.

Edwards said strengthening these positions was crucial for competition for places.

“Callum Dunne and Glenn Poole was pretty much all we had at times in central midfield last year and we look much stronger with Edwards and Mahler in our ranks. The same goes for our defenders.”

One defender that won’t be playing for Blues next year is Chris Wild. The centre-back signed for Town at the start of pre-season but has been unable to commit to the club due to work commitments. Edwards confirmed he is in the market for a replacement.

Town take on Conference Premier side Eastleigh at New Lodge in their next pre-season match tomorrow evening.