Perfect 10 would be dream for GOAL ACE

Jake Gray celebrates his wondergoal
Jake Gray celebrates his wondergoal

A 10-goal-a-season striker is a big deal for Hartlepool United.

But a midfielder in double figures? That would be gold dust.

Don’t laugh or question the sobriety of this writer, but Pools are halfway to getting both.

Billy Paynter hit 10 for the season when he tucked away a Nathan Thomas cross in Tuesday night’s five-goal thriller with Notts County.

And within five minutes, Thomas (who else?) teed up Jake Gray, who unleashed a stunning volley beyond away keeper Roy Carroll, his shot smashing down off the crossbar.

It was Gray’s fifth goal of the season – and the best.

And that is saying something considering the quality of his strikes thus far.

You would probably have to go back to the days of Mark Tinkler, Darrell Clarke, Tommy Miller, even Chris Beech and Jon Cullen for midfielders who get into double figures.

Not now you suspect. Gray is getting goals and, not only that, he is having a shot or three every week.

The 21-year-old could have had hat-tricks against Cambridge, Yeovil and Notts County.

So, given the scoring positions he is getting into and the shots he’s having, 10 should surely be within his capabilities?

“I’m something like one in three at the moment, so, by the end of the season, I’d like to get to double figures,” said Gray, who hopes the guidance of the new manager, goalscoring ace Craig Hignett, can help.

“I’ve heard he was a good [attacking] player himself, so I hope I can learn a lot from him and have a positive end to the season.

“I think 10 is a realistic target and it would be a good achievement.”

Anyway, what about that goal – did he mean it?

“Of course,” he laughed.

“To be honest, I didn’t even look at the goal.

“I kind of already knew what I wanted to do when it was played over the top.

“I wanted to take a touch and, when it sat up nicely, I let it go. That goal’s probably up there as one of my best, especially at men’s level.

“I think it’s been my best for Pools.”

Gray seems to relish scoring something special for Pools. His double in the televised win over Leyton Orient were both fine goals as were the efforts against Derby County and Cambridge which came via Michael Woods.

So when will see a bread and butter goal?

“I will take a tap-in from a yard out!” he told SportMail. “Hopefully soon, maybe tomorrow?”

And a goal at Luton would be ideal. There will be a mini-invasion of Grays at Kenilworth Road.

Gray’s home town of Aylesbury is just around the corner from Luton and to add to the occasion, the Crystal Palace loan man’s senior football debut was against the Hatters.

“Last season, my first professional football game was against Luton when I was at Cheltenham,” he said.

“My family are coming to watch, so it’s going to be an extra-special occasion.

“But, that aside, it’s a big game and we could do with the three points!”

Gray said that Pools are trying to look up, rather than down. Are Pools not anxious at the league table?

“Not really, we’re trying to ignore it. We don’t really want to be adding any pressure, we need to stay focused,” said Gray, who says the squad are “enjoying” the new regime.

“It’s different, but everyone is enjoying it and buying into what he wants us to do.

“It may take a little time, but hopefully it will start showing on the pitch as soon as possible.”