BROWNE ON THE BALL: Forward thinking! How Boston United need their search for a goalscorer to pay off

Dayle Southwell.
Dayle Southwell.

It was a harsh lesson for the teenage me.

Out of Lincolnshire and out on the lash in a big city with mates for the first time. I’d even had a haircut and bought a new shirt.

I felt the business.

Right up until the taxi driver dropped us off and I walked into the first bar, where it swiftly became evident that every other bloke’s moisturiser cost more than I earned in a month.

Before I’d even bought my first drink I was feeling like Rab C. Nesbitt had accidentally stumbled down the red carpet at the Oscars.

It’s a real killer when you go out of your way to make improvements, and they’re still short of what others can do.

And that must be how Adam Murray feels when he looks at the National League North table right now.

Man-for-man the Boston United side he sent out of the tunnel at Telford were better than the XI which ended last season in defeat at Curzon Ashton.

But while his summertime signings, and those made since, have improved the team, it hasn’t improved their place in the table as many other sides around them have been able to push on even more.

And he’s not alone.

Ricky Miller.

Ricky Miller.

Take a look at Kidderminster Harriers right now.

Last year’s runners-up, able to spend a reported £75,000 on one player this summer, and currently 12th with five wins from 13.

For many reasons, but much of it financial, this division is tougher than ever.

A divide between the haves and have-nots seems to be appearing in the league table.

Marc Newsham.

Marc Newsham.

Of course, it’s tight in the table right now and no team down the bottom should be thinking of anything other than ‘a few wins could see us up there’.

But that doesn’t just happen.

The magic needs to come from somewhere.

Speaking after that defeat at New Bucks Head, Murray made it very clear that he feels a goalscorer is the spark missing from his squad.

And anyone who has been a regular at the Jakemans Stadium in recent years can only agree.

Between the 2008-09 and 2016-17 seasons the club’s leading scorer only failed to reach 20 goals once.

Spencer Weir-Daley.

Spencer Weir-Daley.

That was Spencer Weir-Daley in 2010-11, and nobody really cared as the club still reached the play-off semi-finals anyway.

For the best part of a decade United have been spoilt with leading scorers - Ollie Ryan 22, Marc Newsham 29, Weir-Daley 14, Newsham 21, Newsham 30, Ricky Miller 28, Dayle Southwell 30, Southwell 24 - to the point that we just expect the next one to come along every time a hotshot moves on.

But the problem is that’s just not the case, as this season and last are proving.

It’s not as if the club doesn’t have strikers.

Kabongo Tshimanga has struck six times already and at there are at least 33 more games to try to beat the 12 Jay Rollins topped the charts with last year or the 14 SWD notched in that promotion-chasing season.

The young forward may even be the next in a long line to reach 20.

Karl Hawley has the predigree but is at the stage of his career where he’s more of an impact player than a regular starter, while Jay Rollins has been playing in a wider role since his return.

And what about Gregg Smith?

Undoubtedly a tremendous weapon, but just seven starts in the past 10 months means he’s still playing catch-up with his fitness while Boston desperately need additional firepower.

But from where?

More than ever the most consistent non-league strikers are being offered better deals by the richer clubs.

Clubs who can afford to stockpile strikers and strikers who are on contracts big enough to ensure they’re happy to sit it out, or go on loan, rather than agitate for a move.

If you’re a full-time footballer, training every day in English football’s sixth tier (yes, full-time and sixth tier do fit in the same sentence these days), do you really demand your contract gets ripped up so you can move to a semi-pro side and begin the hunt for a day job?

These days the better players from lower levels are also tied up, certainly good business sense for a club with a promising talent aged under 23.

Seven-day approaches may not be a thing of the past, but it’s tougher to pick up a gem on a free than ever.

This summer Boston were in talks with one middle-ranking non-league striker and a decent deal was put on the table.

Decent, that is, until a rival offered him pretty much double what he had been taking home.

Murray’s inability to land another forward hasn’t been down to lack of effort.

He’s been out scouting, on the phone and even agreeing deals which have been gazumped at the 11th hour. At least twice.

There have also been the trialists which - for numerous reasons - haven’t worked out.

They say hard work pays off.

I hope that’s the case for Murray and United, as a man putting the ball in the back of the net could instantly transform fortunes.