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 Tuesday’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 one­sea­son 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 NonLeague’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.


GOAL-DEN BOYS: Left to right, Daryl Clare, Gi­u­liano Grazi­oli, Mark Stein and Matt Tubbs YOU’RE THE MAN! Striker Ma­cauley Bonne, cen­tre, is fir­ing Ley­ton Ori­ent’s ti­tle bid

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