Matt Barnes has been singing the praises of Barnoldswick Town’s star man Zack Dale after the forward climbed to the top of the goal-scoring charts.
The 24-year-old’s hat-trick against Abbey Hey on Saturday took him to 22 for the term in all competitions, level with Charnock Richard striker Carl Grimshaw.
Last season’s Hallmark Security League Premier Division Player of the Year had made the move to Ashton United, recently promoted to the National League North, before joining Runcorn Linnets on a dual registration.
However, the jewel in Town’s crown has returned home and has cast one eye on landing the division’s Golden Boot award.
“Zack is doing really well,” said Barnes. “People are always asking about him. With him being the star of the club you’d think he was a big time Charlie but he’s not. He’s the complete opposite.
“He’ll stay and help tidy up after games, he helps out, he’ll collect the corner flags after games. He’s that type of lad.
“The loyalty he has shown to this club is second to none. He went to Ashton but, unfortunately for him, it didn’t quite work out.
“He’s had clubs after him left, right and centre. I’ve got people ringing me all the time. Some have offered him big money, a lot more than what he knows we can offer him here, but he’s turned them all down. His loyalty and commitment is unbelievable.”
Dale opened the scoring at the Abbey Stadium with just four minutes played before Robert Swallow equalised for the home side eight minutes later.
Captain James Crorken added a second in the eighth minute to double Town’s lead before Robert Swallow pulled a goal back for the home side.
However, that only spurred Town in to life as the heavens opened. The visitors were relentless and Jack Coop restored their two-goal cushion in the 25th minute.
Andrew Hill made it 4-1 just minutes after the restart when finding the net from 25 yards out and then the central midfielder turned provider to tee up Dale for his second of the afternoon in the 68th minute.
Shaun Airey made it 6-1 with a header in the 71st minute while Dale completed the scoring, and his hat-trick, when capitalising on a goalkeeping blunder from Ross Heywood to make it 7-1 in the 73rd minute.
“He’s set his sights on getting the Golden Boot award this season,” confirmed Barnes. “If he does that then he’s done everything he possibly can do on a personal note in the Hallmark Security League. We often joke that he’ll have completed the level.
“Fingers crossed he achieves that. Carl Grimshaw will be tough to beat but he’s level and he’s played less games. Zack could have been on top by 10 if he’d have taken all his chances!
“He’s a great lad and he’s good to have around. He’s one of those players who you want to see do well because of the way he is.
“It wouldn’t come as a surprise at all if he won the Player of the Year award again.”
Town’s midweek fixture against Northwich Victoria was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
They’ll go again tomorrow when the two most prolific players in the league go head-to-head as Charnock Richard visit the Silentnight Stadium, kick-off 3 p.m.
“People will think that we’re over-achieving but we feel that we’re where we should be,” said Barnes. “We targeted top six when we first came in and we’re achieving that so far.
“We’ll probably look at it again around January and revise our targets. At that stage we might set our sights even higher. We won’t stop wanting to win the league until it’s mathematically impossible but we’ve got to be realistic.
“We’re showing consistency and you need that at this level. However, we don’t want to get carried away.”