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'We knew decision to let Lench go would be unpopular', says Slough Town joint boss Baker

Football is all about opinions, and Neil Baker knows the club’s decision not to renew Matt Lench’s contract this summer will divide opinion.

Lench played a key role in the club’s march to the National League South this season, and scored a memorable hat-trick in the Rebels’ 6-0 win at Gainsborough Trinity in the first round of the FA Cup.

He became the poster boy for their achievements ahead of the FA Cup tie against Rochdale but, with the addition of Scott Davies later in the campaign, had less of an influence in the final weeks, despite playing many matches in the run in.

In the side’s two play-off matches, against Kettering and King’s Lynn, Lench was used for only a handful of minutes.

Baker said there were lots of reasons for Lench’s departure but thanked the player for his contribution to a memorable season and wished him all the best for the future.

“Listen, there is no doubting Matt’s ability,” he said. “But sometimes it’s just not the right fit. He was absolutely fine for us last season but going forward he wanted to play in central midfield and we felt that with Scott (Davies), Togs (Togwell) and Dunny (Dunn), we had three who were ahead of him.

“We knew the decision would not be overly popular because Matt’s well liked by the fans and he scored that hat-trick against Gainsborough. But we’ve taken the call and explained our reasons to Matt. Football is all about opinions.”

At present Lench is the only squad member from last season not to have been offered new terms, although it seems likely one or two more may move on in the close season. Baker and Jon Underwood are confident the players who earned promotion through the play-offs last season can handle themselves in the National League South.

Davies, who provided the Rebels with a timely boost when he arrived from Chelmsford, has also signed up for next season, while goalkeeper Jack Turner expressed his delight at signing with the Rebels for another year on Twitter.

“We plan to keep the mainstay of last season’s squad,” said Baker. “It’s a very good squad which we feel is more than capable of playing step 2 level football. We felt last season we had a Conference South squad playing in the Southern League.”

Baker added that Slough wouldn’t be shouting their summer transfer business from the roof-tops, but he expects two or three new players to come in, with the priority to replace Lench.

The Rebels have also put together their pre-season programme ahead of the new campaign, with Reading set to play at Arbour Park on Saturday, July 14 (3pm kick-off).  See the Slough Town website for the full list of fixtures.

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