Only four players reached the fabled 20-goal mark last season. The league’s top scorer, Matty Taylor, scored 27 for promoted Bristol Rovers, whose late charge earned them third place. He was followed by Jay Simpson on 25 goals, of Leyton Orient, who finished eighth, six-points outside the play-offs; John Akinde of Barnet, who finished 15th, scored 22; Wimbledon’s Lyle Taylor got 20 for the side that came seventh, and went up through the play-offs.
Notably absent clubs include runaway champions Northampton – their top goalscorer, Marc Richards, scored 15 goals, but six others scored five or more, and 17 scored in total. Second-placed Oxford’s top scorer was Kemar Roofe on 17, but they had two others in double figures, too.
After Simpson’s 25 for Orient, the London side's next best total was just seven. Barnet’s Akinde’s 22 was impressive, but the Bees' next best was nine, and only three players scored more than five.
In this season’s goalscoring table so far, only four people have scored more than the seven notched by Argyle’s Graham Carey. They are Akinde, still at Barnet (11), Jon Stead of Notts County (9), Omar Bogle of Grimsby (9), and Danny Hylton of Luton (8). Those clubs are 18th, sixth, eighth and fourth respectively.
At this stage of the season, things are very tight, and any of those clubs still have scope to power into the division’s higher echelons, but these small samples indicate that possessing a 20-goal man does not guarantee success.
Argyle’s sharing policy is serving them well so far. Ten goalscorers have chipped in for the 24 goals scored. Second-placed Carlisle have nine goalscorers to their name, six having scored more than once. Doncaster Rovers, in third, have only had six goalscorers, but four players have scored five or more times.
Contrast with Barnet. Akinde’s 11 from 14 games is mightily impressive, but only six other Barnet players have scored – and he is the only one to have scored more than once.
“I think it is vital [to share goals around],” said Derek Adams. “We saw that Reuben Reid scored 20 goals for two seasons but the club didn’t get out of the division. Having a 20-goal striker doesn’t guarantee you getting out of the division. The team finished 10th and 7th when he scored 20 goals. Last year we finished fifth and no-one scored 20 goals.
“You don’t need a 20-goal striker to get out of the division. Would it help? Yes, but you don’t need it.
“In the modern game, forward players have got a slightly different role. They have to assist in the build-up, and sometimes have to occupy two centre-halves to allow space for other players. It’s a wee bit different in the modern era to in the past when teams played 4-4-2 and the strikers were the ones who scored goals.”