HARTLEPOOL United have been dealt a blow with the news that last season's top scorer Rhys Oates has declined a contract offer to join League Two Mansfield Town.

Oates, 26, finished the campaign on 17 goals and was voted Players Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year at Pools. 

The forward was instrumental in the second half of last season in a run of games which saw Oates net 13 times in 17 games to help fire Pools to the Football League via the National League play-offs. 

Oates' contract came to an end in July and was offered fresh terms by Pools after signing a one-year deal last summer.

The club were hopeful of keeping hold of their star man from last season but it looks like Pools have once again been priced out by a league rival as he signs for Mansfield on a two-year deal. 

Oates told the club website: "I met the manager (Nigel Clough) and went to the training ground (The RH Academy) on Saturday.

"The way the gaffer spoke and where he thinks the club can go, along with the setup where I’ll be training week-in, week-out, I thought it was a perfect fit for me.

"It (The RH Academy) is a great setup, where I know as a team, we’ll get on together well.

"With any club you go to, you have to come in and prove yourself. I’ll work as hard as I can in pre-season."

It's the second time Pools have lost one of their players to a fellow League Two side after Ryan Johnson joined Port Vale. The club were also in talks over a deal to bring Luke Armstrong back after his impressive loan spell but he has since gone on to join Harrogate Town on a permanent deal. 

Pools were recently boosted by the news that Gary Liddle and Nicky Featherstone have signed new contracts with the club.

Liddle is tied down to a one-year extension while Featherstone has signed a two-year deal. 

Jamie Sterry, Luke Molyneux and Ben Killip have all been offered new contracts while talks are taking place with Ryan Donaldson and Zaine Francis-Angol.