MARK Bentley hopes Alex Stephenson will keep away from the treatment table in the forthcoming season.

The central defender impressed the Gulls boss, who took over in October, before being sidelined for the remainder of the season and requiring shoulder surgery.

But Stephenson has impressed in the Gulls’ first three friendlies of the summer and Bentley admits Stephenson will prove to be like a new signing.

“Alex has been really good,” said Bentley.

“He had a nightmare with his shoulder last year but he has come back and worked hard during the off-season.

“I wasn’t planning on giving him 90 minutes against Bowers & Pitsea on Saturday but, because Elliott Warren is away at the moment and Finners (Mike Finneran) took a knock early in the second half, I had to.

“It’s good for him and he felt fine. He’s a young lad as well and I’m hoping that he will be able to stay away from injuries this season.”

Stephenson is likely to line-up in the heart of Canvey’s defence as they visit Walthamstow tonight.

Walthamstow finished third in the Essex Senior League standings last term.

And Bentley is expected to give trialists some more time on the pitch as the Gulls step up their preparations for the forthcoming Isthmian North season.

“The trialists and youngsters are making it difficult for me,” added Bentley.

“I want to give opportunities to the players that have been training with us.

“We have brought in a couple of new players who only came in for training on Thursday and on the day of the Bowers game.”

Among the trialists is David Manu, who made an impression after coming off the bench in the 1-0 win over Bowers.

“David has been at Wingate & Finchley,” confirmed Bentley.

“I know what he is about and he has got something that we haven’t currently got in our side.

“He will have an opportunity over the course of the next few weeks to show me what he has got.

“David looks quite raw but he is rapid.

“We need that out-ball because we haven’t got that and although I want to see us play football the right way, there will be times when we’re not able to.”