NEIL Hards has settled on Chris Flood and Daryl Phillips as Winchester City’s first-choice strike force.

The Sydenhams Premier Division leaders released three players over the weekend, including attacking duo Liam Robinson and Lerone ‘Rudy’ Plummer – the latter having returned to his old club Brockenhurst.

Centre-back Matt Scott, signed from Downton during the summer, has also moved on, giving team boss Hards room to manoeuvre as he tries to strengthen his squad while keeping within the constraints of the playing budget.

Hards, who took over at City in early November following Graham Kemp’s departure, explained: “We’ve cut the budget massively since Paul (Masters, assistant manager) and I have been at the club.

“We released a lot of players when we got here and we’ve had to trim down again with one eye on next year.

“I don’t like doing it, but changes have to be made and part of the reason for letting Liam and Rudy go is that they’ve been on the bench most weeks and need to be playing.

“Our chosen strikers are Floody and Daryl Phillips, who have both impressed. Daryl works hard in training and his attitude is fantastic. As for Floody, he’s likely to turn a game at any time. For the benefit of Rudy and Liam they need regular football and, also, we can’t afford to have too many money earners sat on the bench.

“The cuts aren’t entirely down to finances but pennies dictate here to a certain degree and, if players aren’t doing the job, we have to make changes.”

Although City lodged a couple of approaches for players last week, their targets were beyond them financially.

“The players we were after wanted too much money,” Hards confirmed.

“We’ll keep trying, but we’ve got some lads in the reserves that Paul and I like the look of. Grant Orchard, the reserve team manager, has brought in some decent players and there’s no point having a reserve side if you’re not going to use it. Ryan Holloway and Ben Stanbrook have come in and done a decent job and Daryl Phillips is now a regular first-team player.

“John Borg, a sweeper, was in the first-team squad for a period of time and deserves another go and Dan Bapty, a left-footed central midfielder who was at Stockbridge with Daryl, has a decent touch.”

Hards added: “We’re still in the market for new signings, but all clubs are going for the same sort of players. At the end of the day, they’ve got to come at the right cost.”

City have no midweek game but return to action on Saturday at Hards’ old club Newport IoW.