CANVEY Island boss Mark Bentley is eager to begin discussions over Frankie Merrifield’s future at the club.

Merrifield, who has been featuring as a striker rather than his usual midfield position in recent weeks, bagged a hat-trick in the Gulls’ 4-0 victory over Basildon United.

The 25-year-old has now scored seven goals in his last three appearances and Bentley, who tipped Merrifield to score 20 goals each season in the Isthmian North when he replaced Danny Heale in the hotseat in October, has made keeping the ex-AFC Wimbledon man one of his priorities.

“As soon as I came in, Frankie was a player that tried to break the lines from a deep position in midfield,” said Bentley.

“I thought he had an eye for goal and he thought it was a tongue-in-cheek comment when I said he could score 20 goals a season.

“But I have chucked him up top and I was never in doubt about his ability there.

“He is mobile and wants to score goals, which is the main thing.

“Frankie scored another three against Basildon, which is good for him and good for us.

“He is enjoying playing as a striker and he was disappointed not to play there at Mildenhall Town on Saturday, which is good because it obviously tells you where he is at.

“Being able to also play as a striker could make my summer a bit easier as well.

“Frankie is a player that I have never been in doubt that I want to be here next season.

“He is someone who works hard and he has played virtually every minute since I came in.

“He is a good character as well and has played at a higher level than this.

“We will be sitting down with Frankie tonight or early next week to see if we can sort something out.”

Canvey’s triumph over neighbours Basildon also allowed the Gulls to register back-to-back wins for the first time since January.

And Bentley believes the turnaround in form has resulted in him thinking twice as to whether some players should remain at the Frost Hire Stadium for next term.

“The players have shown in the last couple of games why they should be here and they may have changed my mind,” added the former Southend United midfielder.

“We want to fight for the title and promotion next season.

“My ambition is massive and that’s where we need to be.

“The last two months, before this run, was unacceptable and the players know that cannot happen.”