IT was never going to be easy to replace last season’s prolific strike partnership of Justin Bennett and Tommy Wright.

But Salisbury boss Steve Claridge believes he has made a step in the right direction by winning the race to sign former Hungerford and Gloucester City goal-getter Luke Hopper.

The 28-year-old is expected to go straight into the squad tomorrow as the second-placed Whites make the trip to third-placed Evesham United in the Evo-Stik South West.

Several clubs – Hereford included – had been linked with interest in Hopper and Claridge said: “I am really delighted he has signed for us as there were a number of clubs after him. He is a great addition to the squad.”

Even better news for Whites fans is that Hopper has penned a deal for the rest of this season and the next – a sure sign that Claridge is planning for a future in the Evo-Stik South Premier.

Hopper is not the only new face in the Whites’ camp. They have also swooped for versatile attacker Lewis Ellington on a youth loan from Bristol Rovers.

Meanwhile, four of Salisbury’s youngsters – Jim Ward, Harry Rutty, Ronan Clancy and first-teamer Josh Sommerton - have been selected for the forthcoming County FA under-18 representative match between Wiltshire and Berks & Bucks.

Fellow White Ryan Penny is unavailable for selection as he lines up against Wales and Scotland in the same week for England Schoolboys.

Wilts U18 v Berks & Bucks U18s will be played at Melksham Town FC on Sunday, March 25 (2pm).