Vale’s faltering fortunes have made things a bit gloomy so let’s look at one positive from this season – the Pope’s chance of topping the scoring charts.
It isn’t easy to find a bright spot amid the gloomy prospect that is Port Vale’s current campaign, but if you’re looking for a potential source of warmth in the depths of a long winter, the blossoming form of Tom Pope under Neil Aspin is something to be thankful for. Thirteen goals is a pretty solid haul, given the level of service he has received, and a continuation of this form could put him in contention for the League Two top scorer title.
It’s a figure that represents just over 38% of Vale’s total goal output this season and is enough to put him joint fifth in the League Two top scorers charts…
Generally speaking, League Two fans are treated to more goals than those in other Football League divisions. The 2.66 goals per game that the average League Two fan has seen this season is a touch lower than the 2.7 in the Premier League, but more impressive than the figure of 2.61 for League One or the stingy 2.5 goals per game that Championship fans have to put up with. Altogether, there have been 974 goals scored in League Two this season. Port Vale’s contribution to that figure? 34. Only six teams in the division have scored fewer.
All of which makes Pope’s total of 13 goals an impressive return, particularly when you consider that he only managed one in his first 13 appearances under Michael Brown.
It’s a figure that represents just over 38% of Vale’s total goal output this season and is enough to put him joint fifth in the League Two top scorers charts. Having a player of Pope’s experience in front of goal should ensure that Vale don’t end up in a relegation dogfight and will always offer encouragement to those betting on Vale in any of the League Two markets.
Still, Pope faces a tough challenge if he’s going to overhaul some of the other marksmen in the division, as this list of his main rivals demonstrates.
Having managed 15 goals last season, Accrington’s pugnacious Kee has already notched 18 this time around, which represents a third of Accrington’s total. He’s also managed eight assists, underlining his importance to their campaign. That said, some of Stanley’s main promotion rivals are creating more chances, which means that although Kee has a three-goal lead over his nearest challenger, he could yet be overhauled.
Hylton ended last season as Luton’s player of the season, and despite missing the start of this campaign as he recovered from a leg operation, his prolific form has enabled him to overtake everyone else in the charts apart from Kee. He has scored his 15 goals faster than anyone else on the list, and with Luton flying at the top of the table, he has every chance of catching the current leader.
Having helped Notts County stay up last season, Grant, who is on loan from rivals Forest, has found the net 14 times this season and is clearly a young player with a big future. Interestingly, he’s had significantly fewer shots than the other two players ahead of him (46 compared to Kee’s 57 and Hylton’s 56), suggesting that he’s a pretty deadly marksman and may need his teammates to create as many chances for him as some of his rivals.
An up-and-coming talent in the lower leagues, Doidge helped Forest Green Rovers earn promotion last season and he’s continued his good form on his return to League Two. Like Pope, he has thrived despite his team’s poor form, and his 14 goals represent over 42% of Forest Green’s total. However, with a long, grinding relegation struggle ahead of them, Rovers may adopt more of a backs-to-the-wall approach as the season reaches its conclusion, which could reduce the number of chances that come Doidge’s way.
“The Beast” has built on his 12 goals last year for Wycombe and has already banged in 14 as Wanderers have mounted a serious title challenge. Akinfenwa isn’t shy of shooting, having gone for goal an incredible 84 times this season, compared to Pope’s 57. That willingness to have a go, combined with Wycombe’s good form, mean that the big man can’t be written off in the race to be League Two top scorer.
With a number of players ahead of him, Tom Pope’s chances of ending the season top of the pile will depend on Vale giving him a better supply than they are currently. Only three teams in League Two – Forest Green, Yeovil and Crewe – are creating fewer chances, but if they can begin to improve on that statistic, then Pope has a chance of climbing the top scorers’ table and earning the recognition that his sterling efforts this season certainly deserve.