Higgins crowned golden boot winner after late goal rush

Echo: Sam Higgins Sam Higgins

IT WAS a keenly contested Echo Golden Boot this season, but a terrific late run of goals from East Thurrock’s Sam Higgins saw him claim the honour.

And what makes the former Chelmsford man’s 40-goal haul even more impressive is that he missed the Rocks’ first nine league games through injury!

And a strikingly similar handicap was overcome by our runner-up Tony Stokes, who missed the first eight games of Concord’s season with a groin problem. But he still managed to keep his pre-season pledge to score 30 goals this campaign as he fired the Beachboys away from the drop zone and within striking distance of the play-offs.

Stokes led our race with a little over a month to go, but Higgins scored an incredible 19 goals throughout March and April to finish top of the pile.

Stokes had finally knocked Southend Manor’s prolific strike duo of Wilf Msiska and Gary Paterson off the summit in late January. Msiska started the season like a train and then a run of important FA Cup goals from Paterson saw the duo race past the combined 50-goal mark before the turn of the year. But injuries to both saw the goals dry up in the run-in and they were reeled in by the chasing pack.

In fact the Manor boys did not even finish as the top scorers from our local Essex Senior League teams. That honour went to Calvin Poku as he scored an incredible 29 goals in a side struggling near the foot of the table.

The Len Salmon Stadium faithful will hope they can keep the powerful striker for next season, but it will be tough with Ryman League suitors already lining up.

Tilbury’s eye-catching play-off place was the product of a fantastic team spirit, but it was spearheaded by a 25-goal return from Alex Read.

The Dockers were the fourth highest scorers in the division, losing in the play-off semi-finals, and they’ll need to keep Read if they are to go one better next season.

Harry Elmes’ contribution can often be overshadowed by Stokes’ exploits at Concord, but the Thames Road faithful will tell you just how valuable the striker’s contribution is, and his 18 goals were just reward for another fine season.

Canvey’s strikers shared around their goals this season with Jason Hallett’s 15 the best of their forwards. And that paved the way for midfielder Rob King to finish as the club’s top-scorer for the second season in a row with 18.

Craig Gillam scored 14 of his 16 goals during a fruitful spell at Hullbridge Sports, but he kicked off the season with one for Bowers & Pitsea and ended his season’s tally with one for Southend Manor.

Gillam’s younger brother Jordan Willams was also on fire for a while as he claimed 16 goals for Sports before injury cut his season short.

Higgins’ triumph means it’s the second time in as many seasons the award has gone to a Rocks player after Kris Newby won last season.

And Newby again made it onto our end-of-season scoring chart as he returned from an unsuccessful early-season spell at Thurrock to fire in 16 goals for John Coventry’s side.

Of course there is no place in our chart for a player from Billericay, for whom striker Jay May led the way with 15. But as they won the Ryman Premier title and were second-highest scorers in the division, it’s unlikely anyone at New Lodge will really be that bothered!

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