AFTER losing star players Ben Mackey and Dan Jacob, St Neots Town chairman Mike Kearns says the club will experiment with its young squad during the final months of the Southern League season.

Kearns also told The Hunts Post the club has "no divine right" to keep hold of players who want to leave, and the policy of every player attending training twice a week is resolute.

"It gives us the opportunity for the next nine games to experiment with and develop young players who we will want next season," said the chairman.

"It makes perfectly good sense. We're not going to go down - we might get in the play-offs, we might not - and on Saturday's performance the two up front [Kyle Asante and Dubi Ogbonna] did extremely well."

There was surprise in the stands at The Cozy Stadium when fans discovered that leading goalscorer Mackey had joined Stourbridge, who the Saints just happened to be playing that day, for an undisclosed fee, while Jacob was also missing from the team-sheet, sparking rumours of his imminent departure as well. The following day, it was conformed that the winger had joined Northern League Division One side King's Lynn Town.

But Kearns explained: "Ben wanted to go before Christmas because of work commitments. He lives in Leamington and training was nigh-on a three-hour drive in rush hour traffic.

"It's the club's insistence that everybody trains twice a week but there was no problem with Ben's work ethic or anything else.

"Ben indicated to me last week that unfortunately he would not be able to sign for us next season. I said he could go and pick himself a club. The opportunity arose to go to Stourbridge and they were prepared to take him and pay a fee."

The 26-year-old former Coventry City trainee joined St Neots from Evesham Town in 2011 after recovering from a broken leg. This season he has scored 21 league goals with the last three coming in the recent 6-1 win over Hemel Hempstead Town.

Coming so close to the loss of Stefan Moore, who joined Leamington just after Christmas, Mackey will leave a big hole in St Neots' attack. Just last week, the manager Iain Parr told The Hunts Post how good it had been for some of the club's youth players to watch Mackey lead the line during that hat-trick performance.

But Kearns is looking on the positive side and believes relegation is no longer a worry after the goalless draw on Saturday left the team 14 points clear of the bottom two with nine games left to play.

"Against Stourbridge we had one 28-year-old player, one 22-year-old, and everybody else on the field and on the substitutes' bench was 21 or under. How about that?

And on the departure of the captain Jacob, who has been a mainstay in the team for the past three seasons, Kearns said: "There's no animosity with Dan, far from it, he's a smashing bloke.

"It's a real shame but you have to understand these things - it's not our divine right to keep players who for different reasons decide to move."