Warren Bentley battles with Nicky Shorey during Gosport's 3-3 draw at Hungerford earlier in the season
HUNGERFORD TOWN manager Bobby Wilkinson has snapped up golden boot winner Warren Bentley to end a five-year pursuit of the prolific striker.
The 26-year old was last season’s National Game Awards winner at Southern League Winchester City, where he had propelled the Hampshire club into the competition by scoring 113 goals over two seasons – 57 in that second campaign.
He then stepped up to National League South football with Gosport Borough this season and leads their goal-scoring charts with 14 goals from 27 appearances. But the club’s much publicised financial issues led to Bentley’s two-year contract being ended, and Hungerford manager Wilkinson beat off heavy interest from other clubs to bring the Southampton-based PE teacher to Bulpit Lane.
Wilkinson first became aware of Bentley’s goal-scoring exploits when the former Saints youngster – an academy team-mate of Gareth Bale – was at Wessex League Alresford.
Having proven himself as a midfielder with an eye for goal that returned 31 goals in 60 matches, he was moved up front and netted 94 goals in 106 appearances before extending the statistics at Winchester.
“I’ve been after him for five years,” said Wilkinson. “I spoke to him and then we got clearance from the FA that he was a free agent and he came to meet the chairman and myself on Saturday and signed.
“I’m overjoyed. It’s a hell of a signing for this club.
“He will go straight into the squad for the game with Whitehawk, if it goes ahead.”
Wilkinson had already put experienced forward Liam Emver-Marun on stand-but to join the squad for Saturday’s ultimately postponed game with Truro City.
“He had asked if he could train with us,” said Wilkinson, “but with James Clark doubtful for the game and numbers short, I said why not sign a form and help us out, which he did.”
That game was called off shortly after Truro had set off from Cornwall, and tonight’s game with Whitehawk is also subject to a pitch inspection later today, and although prospects are rated as ‘doubtful’, the club is making efforts to get the game to go ahead and is installing heaters beneath the covers in a bid to thaw out the troublesome areas of the surface.
An inspection will be held later this afternoon.