Alfie Rutherford has left Havant and Waterlooville to join National League South rivals Dorking for an undisclosed fee.
The offer from the Surrey club was too good to turn down in the current financial climate and Rutherford was also keen to leave Westleigh Park.
He will link up again with his former Bognor strike partner Jason Prior at Dorking, the pair having scored more than 60 goals between them for the Rocks in 2015-16.
Both Rutherford and Prior signed for Hawks in the summer of 2016, and helped the club to back-to-back promotions in their first two seasons.
Ironically Bognor, who missed out on promotion from the Isthmian Premier while Prior and Rutherford were in the side, did go up the following season, joining Hawks in the National South for 17-18 but coming straight back down.
Prior stayed in the Isthmian League following Hawks’ elevation to the National League in the summer of 2018, joining Dorking. And Rutherford has now followed him in signing for the ambitious Surrey club who have gained an astonishing 11 promotions since being founded by current manager Marc White in 1999.
Another former Westleigh Park colleague, Ed Harris, is also at Dorking having joined the club last summer.
Rutherford was Hawks’ top scorer in their debut National League season in 2018/19, scoring 15 times – this after he had enjoyed a brief loan spell at Eastbourne Borough in September/October 2018.
But regular starts were limited in 2019/20 once Paul Doswell had replaced Lee Bradbury as manager and signed strikers Jonah Ayunga and Danny Kedwell.
They became Hawks’ regular forward pairing, with Rutherford limited to just 15 starts in Hawks’ 34 league games – though he also made 16 appearances.
His last start for the club was ironically against Dorking, where he impressed on the left side and set up Nicky Bailey’s goal in the 2-1 win at Meadowbank on March 14 – Hawks’ last game before lockdown was imposed.
During his time at Westleigh Park, Rutherford also helped Hawks win four cups. The club lifted the Hampshire Senior Cup in 2017/18 and 2018/19, and he scored the winner in the final against Basingstoke in the second of those wins.
Rutherford also struck a hat-trick when Hawks lifted the Portsmouth Senior Cup in 2016/17 with a 5-0 final thrashing of Petersfield Town.
He also netted 12 months later when Hawks defeated AFC Portchester 3-0 in the final – completing a trophy hat-trick with the National League South title and HSC silverware previously collected.
A Hawks statement said: ‘A huge fan favourite around Westleigh Park, we would like to thank Alfie for four years of faultless service and wholeheartedly wish him well for the future.’
Chairman Derek Pope added: ‘We received an offer from Dorking Wanderers eight weeks ago and having spoken to Alfie it was clear to us that he wished to move on.
‘In these very uncertain times it made great sense for both the club and Alfie, and I personally wish him every success at his new club.
‘We’ve seen him grow as a person and a player over this last four years and his unbelievable volley against Leyton Orient will live long in my memory.
“I have been in close contact with Dos (Doswell) over this decision and we have been working very hard to secure a quality replacement for Alfie.
‘We hope to be in a position to announce some progress on this move in the next week or two.’
Rutherford, like Prior, was born in Portsmouth and, also like Prior, used to play for Moneyfields.
He made his debut aged just 16 in 2014/15 – his dad Miles was Moneys’ boss at the time – and ended the season with 21 goals in 30 league starts.
He made seven Wessex appearances at the start of the following season before moving to Bognor.
In his only season at Nyewood Lane, he struck up a prolific partnership with Prior as the club finished second in the Isthmian Premier Division and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time.
While Prior bagged 40 goals in 52 league and cup outings, Rutherford – only 17 at the time – netted 21 times.
Rutherford could yet play against Hawks this season – both clubs occupied play-off positions when the season was halted. The FA have given permission to the National League to extend their season beyond the end of this month, so at present play-offs can take place.