The strikers denied a possible 50-goal season in Hampshire grassroots football due to the suspension of 2019/20 ...
The dramatic suspension of the 2019/20 season came with one of the south coast’s most prolific strikers on the brink of breaking through the 50-goal barrier.
Justin Bennett was three goals away from reaching his seasonal half-century when the campaign was abruptly halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gosport Borough’s record goalscorer is currently the leading marksman in Division 1 of the Wessex League with 32 goals from 26 starts plus off the bench for promotion-seeking Bemerton Heath Harlequins.
Including a seven-goal haul on his debut in the Salisbury Hospital Cup final - a competitive game but played in pre-season - Bennett also has 15 cup goals in seven appearances.
The man who scored 263 goals for Gosport Borough celebrated his Bemerton league debut with a hat-trick in an 8-1 thrashing of New Milton on the opening day of the season.
He has since added further league trebles against Andover New Street, Whitchurch (twice) and Romsey - as well as hitting four goals against Folland.
There was also a Wessex League Cup treble against Andover Town.
With 10 league games still remaining if - as now looks increasingly unlikely - the 2019/20 season is finished, Bennett has already passed last term’s Wessex Division 1 Golden Boot winner’s seasonal tally.
Hythe’s Sam Woodward won it in 2018/19 with 27 league goals.
Bennett was aiming to become the first striker since Whitchurch’s Ian Davies in 2008/09 to score 50 goals for a Wessex League second tier club - and all his came in league action.
More recently, Ryan Pennery struck 48 goals in all competitions for Baffins Milton Rovers in 2016/17. Of those, 39 came in Wessex Division 1 games.
The suspension of all football in the UK is also likely to deny former Championship striker Jamie White his second successive seasonal half-century.
The former Southampton striker netted 50 league and cup goals for Hampshire Premier League club Infinity in 2018/19, from 46 appearances.
This term, White - who made his Saints debut in 2008 alongside the likes of current Premier League stars Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and David McGoldrick - has 41 goals from 33 outings.
He has fired five hat-tricks, including five against lower division AFC Petersfield in a cup tie and four against Liss. Three-goal league hauls have come against Paulsgrove, Lyndhurst and Clanfield.
Despite scoring a half-century of goals in 2018/19, White wasn’t the HPL top flight’s leading marksman.
That honour went to Mark Barker, who fired an eye-popping 62 goals in only 32 league and cup games (and four of those were as a sub!) as Bush won the HPL and county cup double.
This season, Barker has 30 goals from only 21 appearances. If he had carried on scoring at the rate he has done all season in Bush’s last 12 games - 10 in the league plus HPL and Southampton Senior Cup finals - he would have ended on 47 goals.
Now, sadly, like all other footballers across the world, he probably won’t get the chance to finish the season.
Another player joining White on 41 grassroots goals for 2019/20 is Brad White.
He struck his fifth hat-trick of the season in the last round of Mid-Solent League games on March 14 before the campaign was suspended.
The prolific Wymering man netted all his side’s goals in a 5-2 league win over Burrfields.
That was his third haul of five or more goals - having previously struck EIGHT and SIX past poor Cowplain in two league games.
White also netted four times against Carberry in the Len Day Cup quarter finals, and three times against Horndean and Burrfields in league action.
With 32 league goals to his name, he has 11 more than the next highest - Lew Saville of FC Strawberry.
Saville has also struck 14 cup goals this season, so with 35 in total is the second highest scoring Mid-Solent League player.
In terms of Saturday afternoon football - comprehensive figures for local adult Sunday Leagues are not available - another striker with over 30 goals in 2019/20 is Dan Sibley.
The US Portsmouth striker has 33 goals in total for his club’s first and second teams. And, impressively, he has only started 14 games this term!
Sibley has plundered 21 goals for the goal-happy reserve team in the Wyvern Combination East Division from only 10 starts.
In his last outing, on March 14, he fired a first-half hat-trick en route to a four-goal haul in a 9-0 destruction of Folland Reserves.
Sibley has also netted 12 times for USP’s first team this season, even though he has been restricted to just four starts. In addition, he has made 23 sub appearances.
In one of those four starts, he belted four goals in a 5-0 win over Baffins Milton Reserves in the Portsmouth Senior Cup. He also netted in an 8-1 win over Liss in the same competition.
In the Wessex League Premier Division, the season was halted with Scott Hills of AFC Stoneham leading the way in the race for the Golden Boot.
He has netted 20 goals in only 26 appearances - a remarkable feat bearing in mind Hills only netted once in 34 Division 1 outings (15 starts plus 19 as a sub) when the Purples won the title last season.
But with 2018/19 top scorer Segio Caballero having departed last summer, Hills has stepped up to the plate in style.
Alresford’s Craig Harding is second highest top flight scorer with 19 goals - a superb effort considering he had been out for an extended period of time with a serious back injury prior to this season.
Jason Parish was fourth in the race for the Golden Boot with 16 league goals - half of which have been scored in his last six games for title-chasing AFC Portchester.
The first eight of his goals were scored for Baffins Milton Rovers in just 10 league starts prior to rejoining the Royals in October.
Staying locally, Hawks striker Jonah Ayunga would take a share of the National League South Golden Boot if the last balls of 2019/20 have been kicked.
The former Sutton United man is joint-top of the NLS scoring charts with 17.
Ayunga was one of many ex-Sutton players who followed their former boss Paul Doswell to Westleigh Park last summer.
He was an instant hit, scoring eight goals in his first nine NLS matches for the Hawks including doubles against Hampton, Dorking and Hungerford.
Such form wouldn’t necessarily have surprised fans, though - he did score in his first two games for the Hawks while on loan from Sutton in November 2018.