Braintree Town have signed former Queens Park Rangers defender Andrew Howell.

The 20-year-old left-back has become the latest youngster to move to Cressing Road after signing for the Iron from Ryman League premier division outfit, Tooting and Mitcham.

Braintree boss Robbie Garvey has a long association with his Tooting counterpart, Billy Smith.

And that helped him beat off competition from other clubs to sign the tough-tackling Howell.

Garvey said: “We have been chasing him for quite a while now.

“I have a lot of time for Billy Smith and have known him for around 20 years.

“Andrew is a player he did not want to lose – he was Tooting’s player of the year last season in the Ryman League.

“He played for QPR’s first team when he was 17 and he can play at either left-back or in left-midfield.

“He also lives locally, in Dunmow, which is another bonus.”

Howell, who played for Norwich City’s youth sides, signed a professional contract at Loftus Road in June 2007.

He made one first team appearance at Rangers – playing in their Carling Cup win over Northampton Town - and also skippered their under-18 side to the Puma Youth Alliance League title.

Howell, who also played for Wealdstone, will challenge Mark Jones for the left-back spot at Braintree next season.

The 29-year-old experienced full-back completed a surprise U-turn, after electing to stay at Cressing Road.

Jones, who enjoyed a testimonial last summer against former club Southend United, had previously turned down an offer to stay with the Iron.

However, he has now had a change of heart and will be part of Garvey’s plans for next season.

“I’m delighted that Mark has decided to stay with us,” said Garvey.

“I made no secret of the fact that I wanted him to stay with us and we offered him a competitive deal.

“He has been top player and a fit Mark Jones will be one of my top pros next season.”