Nicky Clark is enjoying a dream season as Queen of the South’s number one striker.
With 17 goals to his name after just 22 games, the tricky forward has been one of the leading lights of the high-flying Doonhamers in recent months.
Nine strikes in the league as well as high-profile cup goals against heavyweights such as Rangers, Hibs and Kilmarnock has the 21-year-old sitting as Scotland’s second leading scorer, behind only Gers star Lee McCulloch.
This is a stark contrast to Clark’s struggles last season when he found the net just once in 37 games under then boss Gus MacPherson.
And ahead of this weekend’s trip to second-placed Alloa Athletic, the ex-Aberdeen youth star insists that he should be thanking others for his success in the box.
Clark told the Standard: “I’ve had a good run in the team playing as an out-and-out striker and that certainly helps.
“I spent a lot of time playing out wide last season and didn’t get too many opportunities in front of goal.
“But the main thing is who I am playing alongside up top – these boys just put the chances on a plate.
“Guys like Danny Carmichael, Derek Lyle, Chris Mitchell and Willie Gibson all create chances for other players and I have fortunately been in the right place at the right time.
“I’ve not changed my game at all – I just feel more suited to the system we play this season.”
Clark’s exploits this season have turned plenty of heads and the striker was announced yesterday as the Scottish Football League’s IRN BRU Player of Month for November.
This follows goals against Arbroath and Ayr United and a double at Forfar as Allan Johnston’s men stormed to a 5-1 win at Station Park.
He added: “It’s been an unbelievable start for me personally and I couldn’t have imagined I’d have scored this many goals.
“If I was told that I would score 17 goals for the season I would have been happy nevermind before Christmas!”
Clark, the son of Queens assistant boss Sandy, signed for the Doonhamers in the summer of 2010 but struggled to make an impact in his first season.
He had spent two seasons with Peterhead after coming through the youth ranks at Pittodrie, where he played alongside Aberdeen duo Mitch Megginson and Nicky Low.
Clark was set to be reunited up against his former teammates this weekend when the league leaders travel to Alloa, where the highly rated pairing have been on loan recently.
But Dons boss Craig Brown recalled Megginson from his spell at Recreation Park earlier than expected with Low expected to follow – and the Queens striker believes the absence of old pals will be a huge loss to Wasps manager Paul Hartley.
Clark said: “I played with Mitch and Nicky in the youth set-up at Aberdeen and both players are extremely talented.
“There’s a reason they are knocking on the door of the first team at Aberdeen, with both guys already having played in the SPL.
“That would be a massive blow to Alloa if they were to lose both players before the weekend.
“Mitch is a real goalscorer and Nicky is a tricky winger that can cause all sorts of problems.
“Obviously that would be a positive for us if two SPL players were unavailable for Alloa but they are still a talented side.
“They have plenty of experience and guys like Darren Young and Martin Grehan are a handful for any team.”
Undefeated Queens, who look likely to be without striker Kevin Smith, could stretch the gap at the top of the second division to 12 points with a win at Alloa on Saturday.
The two sides, leading the chase in Scotland’s third tier already, last met at Recreation Park in January 2003, in a 3-3 thriller.