HAVING already made significant impacts coming off the bench for Braintree Town, rising star Alfie Cerulli is hungry to get his first start for the Iron.

The 18-year-old former Braintree Town Academy product broke on to the scene in eye-catching fashion at the end of last year when he scored two goals in five substitute appearances and he has picked up where he left off in the Vanarama National League South this season.

Cerulli has stepped off the bench nine times in the early part of the campaign and followed up scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 victory at Chippenham Town two weeks ago by heading in the decisive strike in a 2-1 triumph against Dulwich Hamlet last weekend.

That win against Dulwich - their third in a row on home turf - took Braintree's unbeaten run to four games ahead of a trip to Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday and Cerulli would relish the chance if his good form had persuaded manager Glen Driver to give him a place in the starting line-up.

The talented striker said: “If I’m starting on the bench, then it’s my job to make an impact and that’s what I’m trying to do, but you need the players around you to do that and it’s great what we have here.

“I was really pleased to be able to come on and make a difference against Dulwich.

“Obviously I’m hungry to get a starting place, but we’re doing well and I’ll have to see what happens."

Cerulli's early-season form and rising reputation has seen him rewarded with a Braintree club contract and he was only too pleased to put pen to paper on the deal.

“It shows my commitment to the club," he added.

“I love it here; the fans are brilliant and I’m really fond of Glen (Driver) and TK (assistant manager Tony Kinsella).

“They have been great since they’ve come in and it’s my way of showing my commitment to the club.

“I’m really pleased with it."

Driver admits he has been cautious about placing his young player in the firing line so far, but he has been impressed with Cerulli's attitude and knows he has a big future ahead of him.

The Braintree boss said: “As a young player who is 18 years of age, Alfie has the attitude of a 35 year old.

“He has started on the bench for a number of games now and has been so patient.

“You don’t want to throw a young kid in and see him sink, but Alfie has to have an opportunity to see if he swims.

“It looks to me, though, that he’ll never sink because he has got so much hunger to play the game.

“His movement up front against Dulwich was exceptional; they never really knew where he was when he got in line with them.

“For a young kid of his age, at 18, to pop up and get a header like that speaks volumes.

“He came on at Chippenham and changed it by getting the winner, he came on against Dorking and outmuscled the player for Femi Akinwande to score and he’s now got the winner against Dulwich.

“I have always said if you’re good enough then you’re old enough and he has to be given an opportunity.

“We have to make sure we look after him, but Wayne Rooney was chucked into it at 16 and look what happened to him.

“Alfie is a very level-headed guy, but we have to make sure we keep him level-headed.

“He’s 18 and by the time he’s 24 I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t playing in the pro game.

“He has to work on one or two areas of his game but the young kid has everything."

With a bright future ahead, though, Cerulli is keen to remember where he has come from, paying tribute to the coaching and development he received in coming through the Braintree Town Academy and recommended it as a good route for other talented youngsters to take.

“The Academy is such a good pathway," he said.

“People have done it before me, but I’d like to be looked at as someone who shows that it can be done.

“I’m proud of that.

“Sammo (Academy manager Mark Sansom) and the academy really did help me out."