HUNGERFORD Town chief Ian Herring has praised Ralph Graham’s handling of National League South’s physical nature, and described the Town youngster’s important role in the heart of Crusaders’ midfield.

Graham, who spent a month with Highworth Town in September, has been a regular starter for Herring amid the Berkshire club’s battle against relegation from non-league’s second tier.

The teenager scored Hungerford’s opening goal in their 2-2 draw with St Albans City on Saturday - fellow Wiltshire talent Joe Tomlinson added the visitors’ second in the dying minutes.

Herring has been impressed by Graham’s ability to handle some of non-league’s more physical players, and said that trait will stand him in good stead for the future.

He added: “Ralph (Graham) is a great lad, and Cameron (McGilp) was seeking to play at a higher level.

“I’ve got a great relationship with Cameron, and Ralph expressed an interest in playing for us. For me, that was immediately a good thing – it shows his character and attitude is right.

“There are always questions marks over young players, can they handle the physicality of National League South? But Ralph joined us at a tricky time, we had lost five in a row.

“But Ralph has conducted himself impeccably, and his performances on the pitch and handling of the league’s physicality has been very good.”

Herring has a strong record of taking players from Football League clubs and turning them into established young professionals.

Bristol Rovers pair Alfie Kilgour and Cameron Hargreaves are fine examples of that, but he has also taken Chiseldon-born Joe Tomlinson under his wing this term after he signed from Brighton.

The versatile left back is also well on his way to playing at a higher level – Herring even believes that opportunity could come at any moment.

He added: “Joe (Tomlinson) has got a burning desire to get back into a Football League club.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the lad – he shouldn’t be playing at our level in my opinion. He has played every single game for us, and some players don’t know what foot he best plays with.

“He is very good with his weaker right foot. He has played right back, right midfield and left midfield – at times it’s probably unfair on him. But his attitude is second to none.”