SETTING a goal standard during the summer could see York City’s current strike force become one of the best in club history.

Improving their tally in front of goal was the key transfer aim of Minstermen boss Gary Mills and his attacking players, boosted by the off-season signings of Jason Walker, Matty Blair and Paddy McLaughlin, have not let him down.

Last season, City scored only 55 goals in 46 Conference matches – the lowest number of any side in the top 16 of the Blue Square Bet Premier. In fact, only five of the 23 other teams netted fewer than Mills’ men.

This time, with 16 games still to go, City have already bettered that tally. Their 56 goals in the league have also been boosted by a further 12 in cup competitions and there’s the real possibility five of the current squad will finish this current campaign having scored at least ten goals.

Walker, Blair and McLaughlin have already hit that target, firing in 15, 12 and ten respectively. Ashley Chambers, on eight, and Jamie Reed, with seven, would expect to reach it before the season winds to a climax.

“Without doubt, it was our downfall,” said Mills of last year’s drought.

“Although we were winning games and you will take 1-0s, if we were going to win a game it was going to be 1-0 last year. This year, I feel we are creating a lot of chances and we are sticking them away.

“What’s nice is we have got the confidence, in quite a few players, that they are going to score every game. There won’t be many teams in this league who have got that. You get the one who is on a good run, a good striker who is scoring, who feels he can go on and score every match but to have a few – which I think I have got – is fantastic for me, to be honest.”

Should just one of Reed or Chambers hit ten, the current City strikers will join an elite band.

In the past 30 years, there have been only four occasions where the Minstermen had four players who scored ten or more goals in the same season. The most recent was Colin Walker’s side of 2007/8 where Onome Sodje (17), Martyn Woolford (15), Richard Brodie (13) and Craig Farrell (11) were the quartet of net-busters.

They followed the 1994/5 side and Paul Barnes (17), Paul Baker (14), Glenn Naylor (11) and Jon McCarthy (10) and you have to go back another decade, to the teams of 1982/3 and 1983/4 to again see four top forwards.

Keith Walwyn, with 24, Brian Pollard (19), John Byrne (14) and Gary Ford (12) were followed a year later by Walwyn (25), Byrne (24), Ford (11), and John MacPhail (ten).

Mills’ men have the chance to go one better and he said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt we will end up with five players with ten or more goals, which is great.

“Last year, Michael Rankine was top scorer and I think he got about 14 and half were from the spot.

“People keep throwing these stats at me. Last week it was that it was 40 years since we had last gone away and scored six goals. I keep getting these things which, believe me, is fantastic. It’s great to sit here and people say ‘Well the last time we did that was back in 1950-whatever’.

“My players deserve that. They have done well. I know we have fallen off the top two a little bit down to draws. We know that. Overall, we are still positive. We still believe we can go on to achieve what we want to this season.

“Jon Challinor has also nicked in with a couple, Dave McGurk scored a header in the defeat against Kidderminster. To have a few players who have that confidence they are going to go and score goals is a great feeling for a manager.”

Such free-flowing play has thrilled the fans and, while saying the Minstermen’s attacking intentions are by design, Mills added there is still a rigid structure to the way he wants his team to go about their scoring.

“It’s how I want my team to play – that they have got the freedom, a disciplined freedom, to go and play,” he explained.

“They can go and play as a front three. I have got my two midfielders who will go and join in with them. The important thing when that happens is we have got our shape when it does break down.

“I want them to go and express themselves and have the freedom to go and score these goals. I don’t want my wide strikers to be stuck out there and the ball goes in the box and they are still there.

“It wasn’t something that was going to come straight away, but even over the last few games the improvement has been fantastic.

“Danny Pilkington’s position, for Blair’s second goal (against Salisbury), showed that. He’s come all the way over from the left to go to the other side of the far post. Jamie Reed was even further over, and Blair has come in as the third striker and got the goal.

“The movement has been very good but it is all disciplined.”

Hot pursuit of Walker

THE CHASING pack all moved a little closer to long-time The Press Player of the Year leader Jason Walker after last weekend’s 6-2 FA Trophy victory at Salisbury, writes Dave Flett.

Man-of-the-match Paddy McLaughlin (three), Matty Blair (two) and Scott Kerr (one) were all rewarded with points for their efforts with the trio occupying the next three places behind crocked top scorer Walker on the leaderboard.

Second-placed Kerr is now seven points behind Walker going into today’s visit of Ebbsfleet.

In The Press Player of the Month contest, Kerr and Blair shared the two bonus points on offer to the player who polled the most man-of-the-match votes from visitors to website.

To be in with a chance of presenting the January Player of the Month winner with his prize at a City home match, vote for your man of the match from today’s clash with Ebbsfleet.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Walker 28 points, Kerr 21, Blair 20, McLaughlin 16, Meredith 15, Fyfield 14, Ingham 13, Chambers 12, McGurk 10, Moké 9, Smith 8, Challinor 7, Oyebanjo 6, Boucaud 5, Parslow 5, Pilkington 2, Henderson 1, Reed 1.

January Press Player of the Month standings: Blair 8, Kerr 6, Parslow 4, McLaughlin 3, Pilkington 2, Fyfield 1.

Goals: Walker 15, Blair 12, McLaughlin 10, Chambers 8, Reed 7, Challinor 3, Fyfield 2, Moké 2, Pilkington 2, Ashikodi 1, Blinkhorn 1, Boucaud 1, Henderson 1, McGurk 1, own goal 1, Smith 1.

Assists: Chambers 10, McLaughlin 10, Blair 7, Meredith 7, Moké 7, Pilkington 6, Walker 5, Kerr 4, Reed 3, Oyebanjo 2, Potts 2, Challinor 1, Henderson 1, McGurk 1, Parslow 1, Smith 1.

Bad boys: McGurk 8 yellow cards; Boucaud, Walker both 1 red, 3 yellow; Smith 5 yellow; Blair, Kerr both 4 yellow; Challinor, McLaughlin, Meredith, Parslow all 3 yellow; Fyfield, Moké, Oyebanjo, Reed all 2 yellow; Ashikodi, Chambers, Ingham all 1 yellow.