ON the day David Hodgson issued his squad with a ruthless ultimatum, the Darlington manager was last night preparing for a fight to hold on to star striker Clyde Wijnhard.

Hodgson has told a third of his squad, who are out of contract in the summer, that they have between now and May to prove their worth at the Williamson Motors Stadium.

The Quakers boss has circulated the names of seven first-team players - Neil Wainwright, Michael Price, Chris Hughes, Clark Keltie, David McGurk, Mark Convery and Michael Coghlan - for either transfer or loan.

However, Hodgson will turn his immediate attentions to Wijnhard, who has been linked with a move to League One side Bradford City.

Hodgson held further talks with the Dutchman's agent yesterday, but admitted he is no nearer to concluding a deal for the player, who has scored four goals in five appearances since joining the club on a pay-as-you-play basis last month.

"I spoke to his representative on Friday and I don't know whether we are closer or not," said Hodgson.

"Another club has came into the equation so it makes it a lot more difficult for us.

"We've done our best in relation to Clyde and in return he has rewarded us by scoring goals and winning us points. That was the deal.

"Clyde may want to remain here long-term, in which case we will sit down and finalise it. He might have other, bigger ambitions and we would have to respect that.

"We'll have a clearer picture next week."

Bantams boss Colin Todd is keen to bolster his attacking options and Leeds-based Wijnhard may fit the bill.

However, Hodgson has warned: "Clyde would benefit from staying with us. If the grass is green, why jump over the fence to see if it is greener, because I can guarantee that it isn't.

"Right now, Clyde is standing on grass, which is as green as it's going to get.

"But it's his decision if he wants to move on to pastures new."

Once the Wijnhard situation is resolved, Hodgson hopes to learn what the future holds for the rest of his squad.

In total, 12 players are out of contract in May and Hodgson said: "I've had a long talk with the lads who are out of contract at the end of the season and they know exactly where they stand.

"Some managers don't tell players where they are until March and by that time it's too late to join other clubs.

"That's why I'm giving some of our lads the opportunity to either move on or fight for their place here.

"I'm not interested in them playing two good games and two bad games. I want a squad of players who are capable of winning games on a regular basis."

Hodgson and his squad arrived in Northamptonshire yesterday, ahead of this afternoon's League Two clash with Rushden & Diamonds.

Despite the return to fitness of skipper Craig Liddle, Quakers are likely to remain unchanged at Nene Park as they seek their third away win of the season.

Hodgson was unhappy with last week's performance against Wycombe, but admitted the result bodes well for the future.

He said: "Overall, our performance wasn't anything like we would have expected, yet we still won the game.

"As a group of players they realised that they hadn't performed anywhere near their full capabilities.

"It goes to show that if we can perform every week then there is every chance that we could be in a very healthy position come Christmas.

"If we are in the top ten by that time then we can always strive for those higher places."

Diamonds lie 14th, two places below Quakers, and Hodgson said: "For form we are probably mirrored by Rushden, so it should be a good game.

"Defensively, we have one of the best records around and on that front we have done brilliantly.

"Unfortunately, statistics only exist until the next game and we have to make sure we go into the Rushden game determined to keep our record in place."

Wolves striker Gary Mulligan will partner Drewe Broughton in attack for Rushden after extending his loan stay at Nene Park. Sean Connelly is back in contention after recovering from a back strain, while Peter Hawkins serves a one-match ban after reaching five bookings this season.

* Quakers will feature on Sky Sports' Soccer AM show this morning. The Sky cameras were at the Williamson Motors Stadium on Thursday to film the Quakers squad in the Crossbar Challenge