MARK Bentley has challenged Mike Finneran and Alex Stephenson to win their places back in the Canvey Island starting line-up.

Finneran and Stephenson were dropped to the bench as new signing Darren Phillips and captain James White formed a central defensive partnership in the Gulls’ 1-0 win at Bury Town on Saturday.

And Bentley hopes the alterations will spur Finneran and Stephenson on.

“Finners and Alex are good lads but we have been shipping goals,” said the Canvey boss.

“I don’t want it to look like my two centre-halves are a cause of why we are conceding goals or losing games.

“That is totally not the case but I had to do something after the defeat to Hullbridge Sports.

“Whitey played at centre-half a lot for me last year and also two games this season and that is when we have looked the most solid we have been.

“With Darren Phillips coming in, no-one has the right to play or start games.

“I, as a manager, have to make tough decisions.

“Finners and Alex took it well and now they have to work hard because they haven’t had pressure on them.

“Whitey doesn’t really want to play at centre-half but he does a job for the team.

“He is the captain and leads the team well.

“Finners and Alex have got to get their heads down now and realise they have some pressure on them because I’m in no doubt that they want their places back.”

However, Phillips and White are set to keep their places in the Gulls’ starting line-up when they visit Soham Town Rangers tonight.

And, having kept their first Isthmian North clean sheet of the season three days ago, Bentley is keen to enjoy another shutout.

“After the performance against Bury, Whitey and Darren have got the shirt,” added Bentley.

“That might upset a few people as well but it is what it is.

“I want to win games of football and keep clean sheets.

“We’ve only just got our first league clean sheet of the season, which isn’t good enough.”

A win could see Canvey climb to within two points of the play-off places tonight.

And Bentley insists his side cannot take 16th-placed Soham lightly.

“We’ve been in this situation before where we won at Heybridge Swifts and then messed up the next few games,” admitted Bentley.

“It will be another messy pitch and we’ll have to grind a result out.

“The players will let themselves down if they don’t put on the same performance as they did at Bury.”