MIKE Finneran has earned praise after biding his time and battling his way back into the Canvey Island starting line-up.

Finneran returned to the Gulls’ backline for the midweek defeat to Maldon & Tiptree after being named on the bench for each of the last six outings.

The central defender is fighting to retain his place for tomorrow’s home clash with Isthmian North table-toppers Heybridge Swifts and boss Mark Bentley was pleased to see Finneran take his chance.

“Finners played well and I was pleased with him,” said Bentley.

“He has been disappointed because he has not been playing, but football is about having opportunities and you have to make sure you take them when they come along.

“Finners was handed an opportunity on Tuesday and he took it.

“He stepped up to the plate and I have never doubted Finners.

“With him being a local lad, he loves the club to bits and he will give everything.

“The problem for him is that, defensively, we have been doing quite well.

“Over the last six or eight weeks, the goalkeeper has not been working as hard as he was beforehand.

“That shows we are giving teams less chances and we need to carry on in that manner.”

Finneran returned to action after Darren Phillips, who joined from Basildon United last month, was ruled out through injury.

Phillips is a doubt to feature this weekend, along with James White and Jason Hallett, while Sam Bantick remains sidelined.

“Darren is 50/50 because there is a bit of tightness in his hamstring,” added Bentley, who is enjoying his first full season in charge.

“He wants to play but it’s touch and go.

“I don’t want to risk it if he isn’t ready because otherwise it could end up with him having a long-term injury.

“Sam is a couple of weeks away even through he tells me he is getting better.

“Whitey shouldn’t have played on Tuesday because he had a problem and I don’t know how he has reacted after that.

“Jason was throwing up in the dressing room at half-time and he wasn’t well at all on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how I managed to get 70 minutes out of him, but we will have to assess him as well.”

Canvey, who are three points adrift of the play-off places, beat Heybridge in the reverse fixture two months ago.

“They will be looking their own back on us,” admitted Bentley.

“Heybridge have done well in putting a run of results together.”