JOHN Coventry says he is looking forward to seeing Lewis Smith back in an East Thurrock United shirt.

Smith, 27, has been banned since March 2016 and handed a fine of almost £23,000 after he was found guilty of betting offences by the Football Association.

However, Smith has been handed a second chance by Rocks boss Coventry, who has known him since he was a boy.

Smith’s ban expired yesterday and he is now set to play in East Thurrock United’s final pre-season friendly of term, against Tilbury at the FutureFuel Stadium tonight.

“I am looking forward to seeing Lewis back on the pitch, although I have seen him play hundreds of times for East Thurrock,” said Coventry.

“But it is good news for everyone at the club.

“He has trained with us for a while now and he is very fit - he ran the London Marathon this year.

“Match fitness will take a bit of time to arrive but he is fitting in well and even the guys that didn’t know Lewis beforehand can see what a good player he is.”

Coventry recently added striker Femi Akinwande and winger Montel Agyemang to his squad, and has been further boosted by the return of Ben Marlow.

Marlow had been on trial at Queens Park Rangers but, having failed to win a contract, has now linked back up with the Rocks squad ahead of the start of the National League South season.

And Coventry is pleased at the state of his squad, with the match against Hampton & Richmond Borough just four days away.

“I look at the players I have and we have a very good squad,” he said.

“Ben Marlow is back for good and that is great for us and I am really pleased with the squad. There is competition everywhere and we have 18 players at the moment.”

Coventry also confirmed that Sammy Knott would hopefully have an operation on his knee in the next month, ahead of a return later this year.”

The match against Tilbury kick-off at 7:45pm tonight.

>Billericay Town welcome a youthful Queens Park Rangers side to the AGP Arena in a hastily arranged pre-season clash.

The match will kick-off at 6pm.

Canvey Island host Olympian outfit Manford Way, looking for their first victory of pre-season.

Admission is free to the match.

Bowers & Pitsea’s penultimate pre-season match of term is against Brightlingsea Regent.

The match at the Len Salmon Stadium is due to begin at 7:45pm.