EASTLEIGH boss Andy Hessenthaler has backed his strikers to score more goals next season.

The Spitfires have released Ayo Obileye, Gavin Hoyte, Harvey Read and Sam Togwell.

Following an injury-hit season, Mark Childs has also not been offered a contract, but will return for pre-season training with a view to earning one.

Loanees Ryan Broom and Sam Matthews have returned to their respective parent clubs – Bristol Rovers and AFC Bournemouth - but strikers Ben Williamson and Chris Zebroski have been retained.

Williamson and Zebroski were Eastleigh’s joint top scorers last season, with ten goals apiece, from 24 and 29 starts respectively.

With Paul McCallum and James Constable still at the club, Hessenthaler is confident he has a strike quartet to make an impact in 2018/19.

Hessenthaler said: “We already have 12 players under contract for next season and Zeb and Willo had an option on theirs.

“They’re both staying at the football club. Willo had a couple of injuries last year, it was a stop-start season for him, but we believe he’ll get a lot of goals in this division.

“Zeb had a slow start but was excellent in the latter part of the season. With McCallum and ‘Beano’ still here we have four fantastic strikers and enough goals there if we have an injury-free season.”

Hessenthaler, who will have Ben Strevens and Paul Reid on his backroom team, admits it was “a difficult decision” to release four players.

“It’s probably the hardest job as a manager,” he said. “We had to release players, all good lads, to be able to bring in new players,” he explained.

“‘Hoytey’s a fantastic lad who gives everything as is Ayo but we felt he wouldn’t get enough football next season with three centre-halves already under contract in Reda [Johnson], Ryan Cresswell, if both are fit, and Boycey (Andrew Boyce).

“Togs’ has been fantastic for me since I’ve been here so that was another tough decision but I had to get the average age down and more legs in midfield.

“He was a gentleman and great to work with, a true pro. There’s a lot of competition for places at centre back but I think Harvey Read will be a good player in a couple of years.

“He needs regular football and we’ll keep monitoring his progress. Lastly, Mark Childs has had a horrendous time with injuries and we look forward to him coming back for pre-season.”