Walton Casuals boss Mark Hams may have to fight to
hold on to hot shot Gabriel Odunaike this summer, but he has his man for now.
The 25-year-old has committed his short-term future to the club after turning down the advances of Ryman Division One North leaders VCD Athletic on transfer deadline day.
Odunaike celebrated by scoring his 10th goal in his past nine appearances in Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat to Folkstone Invicta, for whom Hull City-bound Johan Ter Horst scored an 86th minute winner.
And Hams, who is out to strengthen his back four this summer, believes he has every chance of keeping hold of his frontman on a long-term basis.
“VCD came with a very nice offer for him and a very hefty goal bonus, but he turned them down,” said Hams.
“I’d like to think that is because he can see what we are trying to achieve here and believes we can do something next season.
“He is scoring in every game at the moment and knows what we all think of him and his decision has restored a little bit of my faith in the game.”
Tuesday’s defeat followed Saturday’s 3-2 home reverse to Sittingbourne, that again featured a late winner after the Stags had battled back from 2-0 down.
It also followed the arrival of goalkeeper Tom Wellham and left back Miles Mitchell – at the expense of shotstopper Ferhat Aksoy and winger Youssouf Bamba – who had been signed to assist with a Ryman Division One South play-off push.
That now seems unlikely and Hams knows where his priorities lie when it comes to next season.
“We’re fine going forward – we’ll always score goals – but we have to look at the defence,” he added.
“That might cost us a bob or two, but the directors have to decide if we want to push for promotion or consolidate for another year.
“The game against Folkstone Invicta was our best performance in defeat this season, if that makes sense.
“They ground out a win and had a bit of class and that’s how we need to be.”