ALFIE Cerulli says he wants to prove he is worthy of his place after stepping up into Braintree Town's first team squad.

For a player who has just turned 18, it is a big move as he finds himself part of an Iron unit that is still struggling against Vanarama National League relegation.

However, he has impressed Iron boss Danny Searle enough while playing for the Braintree Town Academy side - under the banner of Witham Town under-23s - in Bostik Development League North for him to bring him into the first-team squad.

He has scored ten goals in 14 appearances for the development side.

Cerulli feels he has also felt the benefits of working with Witham Town manager Mark Ashford in making 19 senior appearances for the Spa Road club in Bostik League division north this season.

So he is hoping he can now kick on after being given an opportunity to step up once more.

He said: “I’ve worked my way into Witham under-23s, then the first team there and I think I’ve played well.

“Scoring goals for the under-23s has helped get me noticed a bit.

“I’ve enjoyed my time with the (Witham) first team, but this is an opportunity I can’t pass up.

“I have been in academy football for a long time and then coming into non-league football this year has been another step up.

“Working with Mark Ashford at Witham has been a massive help to that and I’m very grateful.

“He has given me opportunities and now there are further opportunities with Braintree.

“I’m very excited to get going.

“I don’t know yet how it will work with further involvement with Witham but I’m excited to be working with Braintree.

“I’m hoping that there will be chances before the end of the season.

“That’s obviously up to Danny (Searle) but I’ve got to prove that I’m worthy of playing football here.

“It’s a step up but I’m ready for the challenge."

Cerulli is not the only Witham Development side player from the Braintree Academy that Searle has called up as Jayden Gibson has also come into the Iron's first-team squad after impressing this year.

Gibson made his senior Braintree debut in the 4-0 defeat by Harrogate on Saturday, before also coming on in the 3-0 win at Sutton United in midweek and Searle has been pleased to see him make the step up.

He said: “There was a positive that Jayden was able to come on in the harrogate game and that’s something we’re looking to carry forward with really trying to bring the local youth through the system.

“We’ll see if we can develop some local young players and I felt he did really well when he came on.

“The boy has a future in our first team.

“You always have to try to plan for longer term and players like Jayden and Alfie are players who I would have looked at regardless of where we were in the table.

“Both are very bright young players who were brought to my attention a few weeks ago; I went to watch them play and I liked what I saw.

“I thought we’d get them in for training and we signed both lads.

“Jayden has had that action now and Alfie will be involved as we go on.

“Young players need opportunities and that’s definitely something we will give them."