Dagenham & Redbridge managing director Steve Thompson says that he “probably knew” it was going to be a struggle to keep Conor Wilkinson after the striker joined Leyton Orient.

Thompson revealed that Orient paid the buyout clause inserted into Wilkinson’s contract after he joined the Daggers permanently in January, which allowed Football League clubs to purchase the forward.

Wilkinson, who scored 12 goals in 23 appearances for Dagenham last season, is Orient’s second signing of the summer after securing Josh Wright on a free transfer.

In an interview posted on Dagenham’s YouTube channel, Thompson said: “In my heart I was hoping that he’d be here for the duration. In my head I probably knew it was going to be a struggle. My heart got a bit of a boost at the end of the season. There were two or three League One and League Two clubs that did show a real interest and we know that because in these circumstances we had to be told.

“For one reason or another, Conor turned them down. We were hopeful but the phone call came last week and we had to do the deal. One of the things I did do was that it had to be a Football League club. He couldn’t go to a National League side.

“At the end of the day, he was fantastic for us. His effort and his goals probably kept us up, or helped keep us up at least and we should be thankful for that. We thank him for what he’s done, he’s a great lad and I really got on well with him. I hope he does well at the Orient. The Orient are a great club so I wish them all well.”

Wilkinson’s arrival coincides with the departure of O’s striker Macauley Bonne, who sealed a move to Championship side Charlton Athletic after they paid his release clause.