Pics: Steve Mclellan & Marc Keinch
A FORMER team-mate of Thierry Henry, a model, and a convicted drug dealer – the goalscorers at Step 2 of Non-League’s Pyramid over the years have been varied to say the least.
Whether it was the Conference North and South or its new National League North and South guise, strikers with an appetite for goals have feasted at the level. Particularly this season.
Last weekend AFC Fylde goal machine Danny Rowe set a new National League North record when he scored his 44th goal of a remarkable season to top Damian Reeves’ previous haul of 43.
In the South it’s been all about Dave Tarpey at Maidenhead United. The 28-year-old is now on 43 for the campaign having broken Adam Birchall’s milestone of 34 back in March.
The deadly duo have been giving defenders nightmares all season and helped take their respective teams to the brink of the title – in Fylde’s case that was wrapped up on Saturday.
Rowe, 27, began his career at Manchester United but when he was released rediscovered the enjoyment at Blackpool Wren Rovers in the West Lancashire League.
Since then he’s been to Kendal Town, was a team-mate of Jamie Vardy’s at Fleetwood Town, and had spells at Stockport County and Lincoln City.
But it’s been at Fylde, who are full-time, where the goals have regularly flowed and this season he’s been unstoppable.
Tarpey fits security systems for his day job. National League South sides have struggled to keep him out too. It’s only the fourth time since the South’s inception in 2004 a player has scored more than 30 league goals.
Tarpey’s the first to break the 40 barrier. Jon Main was the maiden 30-goal man. He scored 33 times in 2009-10 for AFC Wimbledon, a club where he remains a legend to this day for his part in their rise.
Completing the 30-plus goal quartet is Frannie Collin, who seems to have scored for fun wherever he’s been. Back in 2012-13 he was at Tonbridge Angels.
Beating Birchall’s tally is no mean feat. A fantastically gifted footballer, Birchall began his career alongside superstars at Arsenal. He moved onto Barnet but admitted that his passion for the game he’d loved all his life dwindled.
He decided to drop down into Non-League and it was while working in a restaurant and playing for Dover Athletic that he rediscovered his zest. In all that season he scored 45 times for the Whites as they reached the FA Cup third round.
Birchall scored a memorable screamer against Gillingham before they were eventually knocked out by Championship side Huddersfield Town.
But his form earned him a move back to the Football League with the Gills and after spells with Bromley and Maidstone, last summer he decided to hang up his boots to concentrate on his coaching career back where it all began at Arsenal’s world class academy.
Goals don’t always mean league success, however. Dover finished two points outside the play-offs and it was a similar tale for Altrincham the season before. Reeves has scored 162 times for Alty, who have endured a terrible two seasons resulting in two relegations.
He was the first player to get into the 40s in a National League North division that has proved a bit more fruitful than the south.
In the first season, Terry Fearns scored 33 times for Southport and two years later fired in 32 times for Droylsden. But there is a footnote to the prolific striker’s career.
In 2010 he admitted his part in a drugs ring which conspired to sell heroin and cocaine in the north-west. Then 32, he was sentenced to four years and eight months behind bars but was later allowed out on day release where he would, controversially, play for Skelmersdale United.
A slightly different life to the one led by Gareth Seddon. He scored 31 league goals in 2006-07 for Hyde United. A model, he starred in the BBC documentary about Salford City and now owns a cheese shop.
Liam Hearn racked up 30 goals for Alfreton in 2010-11 before he moved into full-time football with Grimsby Town and made an equally big impression. He’s now back with the Reds.
And Scott Spencer is the fifth player in the North to surpass 30 goals – his 31 helped Hyde to promotion in 2011-12 and won him call-ups to the England C squad.
For Rowe and Tarpey the question will now be asked, can they continue their streaks at Step 1 or above?
04/5 – Terry Fearns – Southport – 33
06/7 – Terry Fearns – Droylsden – 32
06/7 – Gareth Seddon – Hyde Utd – 31
10/11 – Liam Hearn – Alfreton – 30
11/12 – Damian Reeves – Altrincham – 43
11/12 – Scott Spencer – Hyde – 31
12/13 – Damian Reeves – Altrincham – 36
08/09 – Jon Main – AFC Wimbledon – 33
10/11 – Adam Birchall – Dover – 34
11/12 – Frannie Collin – Tonbridge – 30