OXFORD City say they have offered Kabongo Tshimanga ‘the best contract they possibly can’ in a bid to defy the odds and keep their star man.

The striker caught the eye last season with 36 goals for the Vanarama National League South side, including a hat-trick in their dramatic 3-3 FA Cup tie at Tranmere Rovers.

His impressive performances alerted several EFL clubs, with Oxford United, Stevenage and Exeter City all having shown an interest in the 21-year-old.

Boss Mark Jones admitted he had been resigned to losing his out-of-contract top-scorer.

But with the promise of first-team football and an offer which the Oxford Mail understands would make him the highest paid player in the club’s history, City have not given up hope he will still be at Court Place Farm next season.

“We’re still in there fighting to keep him,” said Jones.

“We’ve offered him a two-year deal and have put the best contract we possible can on the table.

“If he has that opportunity to play at a higher level we would expect him to take it, but at the moment nothing has happened.”

City would be due compensation if Tshimanga moved on, but Jones is hopeful that the promise of regular first-team football could be a key factor in his final decision.

“For him the biggest thing is game time and I don’t think he wants to go somewhere where he is a squad player and part of the under 23s,” he said.

“He wants to play first-team football, that’s something we provided for him and you could see how much that benefited him.”

Jones added: “The ball is in his court. We’d love to keep him and we will stay in communication with him.

“We’re obviously not putting all of our eggs in that basket, we’re looking at other strikers as well, and hopefully we will get some more clarity in the next two or three weeks.”

In the meantime, City have digested the news they will now stay in National League South next season.

The club were set for a 58 per cent increase in mileage for the 2019/20 campaign after being initially placed in the north division.

But with Gateshead demoted from the top tier of non-league football and Aldershot Town earning a reprieve, City were moved back at the league’s annual meeting last weekend.

Jones said he had got his head around being in the north section, but is pleased with the decision.

He added: “It (being in the south) is better for us.

“I think most people would agree Oxford is a south-based city and it does make sense that we’re in that division.

“We’ve been messed about a little bit.

“I understand it’s not the league’s fault in terms of geographically teams coming down from the league above, but it’s certainly not been ideal.”