By Matt Badcock
“That’s the difference”, rued a deflated Wrexham fan. Let Macauley Bonne get free in the penalty area at your peril and, unfortunately for the Red Dragons, he did, swivelling to fire a loose ball emphatically into the net.
After 85 minutes of a fascinating match between two very good National League sides with promotion ambitions, Leyton Orient’s hot-shot striker produced a moment of real quality.
“When the ball falls in the box,” O’s head coach Justin Edinburgh said after, “you want it to fall to Macauley Bonne – that’s why he’s the player he is.”
Bonne’s strike silenced the Racecourse for what felt like a few seconds before the noise from the 600-strong away end filtered across the pitch.
It has also sparked the rumour mill chug back into action with Norwich City, Leeds United, Derby County and Nottingham Forest all supposedly looking to get their hands on the 16-goal striker.
The division’s top scorers being linked with moves higher up the ladder is nothing new. In fact it would be worrying if they weren’t. Goals win games and the food chain looks to feast from below.
Whether Bonne would still be at Brisbane Road was a summer worry for O’s fans. While the club said he would be, there was always a lingering fear until he signed on the dotted line. Of course, should a club come in with a serious offer, then it will obviously have to be considered. Although Edinburgh came out after last week’s draw with Aldershot Town that Bonne wouldn’t be on offer in the January sales.
The club worked really hard to keep him in the first place and it’s paying off. Let’s be straight, if Orient are going to get promoted this season, they’ve got a far better chance doing it with the talisman in their team.
Bonne had his sceptics. His tally of 22 league goals last season was his best ever but some labelled him a one-season wonder. ‘Can he do it again?’ was a question on some lips. How he’s making them scoff their words.
The 23-year-old has found his feet at Orient having started out at Colchester United. When a young footballer is handed the shirt they want and given the responsibility to lead a team, those with the talent so often rise to the challenge.
Not only is he scoring goals but he gets through a lot of work for the team, brings others into play and he blends well with talented Josh Koroma up top alongside him.
He’s become a player opponents fear. Even when he’s having a seemingly quiet game, he can undo you in a flash. Just ask Wrexham.
Ruthlessness is a huge weapon in a striker’s armoury at any level and that ability to gobble up can be a rare commodity. There have been plenty of good goalscorers down the years I’ve been watching Non-League football’s top division.
When following Farnborough Town, it always felt like it could be a long day when Daryl Clare was in the
opposition’s front line.
A memory from an April afternoon during Boston United’s Conference title run-in was of Clare picking up every end-of-season prize bar the young player of the year – dipping in and out of the pre-match warm-up to pick up gong after gong. At one point he even did a comedy backwards run to the awards table because he hadn’t had time to get back to his team-mates.
As well as his goals, another memorable Clare moment was him scoring on live TV for Chester before tucking into a Mars Bar during his celebration as a dig at his own manager Mark Wright who had criticised his waist line.
Clare partnered with Anthony Elding in his Boston days, another fearsome striker in his own right, who had a good career and was part of that strong Stevenage side.
How about Giuliano Grazioli? He famously scored for Stevenage against Newcastle but he also knocked a fair few in at Barnet.
Clare’s Boston-winning season saw him tied at the top of the goal charts with Dagenham & Redbridge’s Mark Stein. Both scored 24 with Stein forming a fearsome partnership with Ken Charlery.
Stein later became physio at Crawley Town, where he would have looked after another awesome Conference striker in Matt Tubbs.
Now player-assistant at Gosport Borough, Tubbs is the only player to enter the top six list of scorers since the 80s. His 37 goals – 11 penalties – in 2010-11 is the third best season return in Non-League’s top flight.
It put him one ahead of John Bartley, who hit 36 for Maidstone United in 82-83, and one behind Kim Casey’s 38-goal season for Kidderminster Harriers in 86-87.
Casey hit 36 the season before to make the top six along with Paul Culpin in 84-85. Culpin is the only player to have a place in the 40-goal club after scoring 41 times for Nuneaton Borough in 1983-84.
It’s difficult to see him joined by that any time soon and most top strikers don’t tend to stay at this level for long these days. Jamie Vardy, remember, only played one season at Step 1.
Bonne surely won’t spend much more of his career at this level, that’s for sure. Orient fans will hope it’s because he’s gone up with them.