Leek Town striker Tim Grice has a habit of popping up in the right place at the right time.
It’s something he’s been doing for most of his career in non-league football and it continued throughout 2019, although a niggling knee injury curtailed his involvement in the early days.
January was a frustrating month for the 29-year-old, from Meir, as he continued to nurse his injury, but by March he was back to doing what he does best and that’s scoring goals.
And he marked his return to fitness in March, netting a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory over Market Drayton Town in the BetVictor West Division to end a run of three successive defeats in his absence.
It was Grice’s seventh hat-trick of his Leek Town career and took his goal tally for the club to 170.
He had already become the club’s all-time leading scorer the previous season, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory at Spalding United to move above the previous record of 152 goals held by Dave Sutton during the late 80s, through the 90s up until he left the club in the 2000/2001 season.
But Grice was gracious enough to acknowledge the contribution of Sutton during his time at the club.
He said of the record: “Yes it’s great to have finally broken Dave’s record and I’m really happy from a personal point of view, but I am honest enough to admit Dave played for Leek at a higher standard than I am currently, so you have to take that into account.”
Leek were chasing promotion last season and went into their game at Colwyn Bay needing to win to make sure they finished in the play-off places.
The score was 0-0 as the game entered the last three minutes. Something needed to happen, and it did.
Grice didn’t start the game, again he was nursing an injury, but manager Neil Baker put him on in a final throw of the dice and it paid off, with Grice setting up Dan Trickett-Smith to net the winner.
That secured third spot to set up a home tie against Colne in the play-off semi-final, a match in which Grice would play another leading role.
In front of more than 1,000 fans at Harrison Park, the tie ended in a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, so the match went to extra-time.
Penalties were just seconds away with the score still 1-1 when Grice produced another moment of magic to smash home the winner.
Unfortunately, Leek lost 2-1 to Radcliffe in the play-off final to end the season on a disappointing note.
But Leek, and Grice in particular, made a cracking start to the new season in the new BetVictor South East Division and by the end of December, Blues were sitting top of the table and picked up the team of the month award, winning all five games without conceding a goal and scoring 14 times.
Grice helped himself to five of them, including another hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Carlton Town and by the end of the month he had taken his tally for the club to 198 goals, just two away from the magic 200 mark.
As a reward for his efforts last season, Grice has been nominated in the Senior Individual category at the Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality Awards by Leek Town Chairman Jon Eeles, who believes the striker deserves to be honoured.
He said: “In an era of non-league football where players move here and there for an extra £10, Tim has remained extremely loyal to the club and is affectionately known as “Mr Leek Town” by the other players.
“Since joining us in 2011 from Eccleshall, Tim has gone on to score 198 goals in 364 appearances – a staggering feat in non-league football and we hope that he continues for many seasons to come.
“He became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer in 2018 surpassing Dave Sutton’s record, when he scored two goals at Spalding United.
“He currently heads the league scoring charts for the BetVictor League South East this season and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was nominated for the team of the year again.
“Tim is fast approaching the next milestone of 200 goals and 400 appearances plus – only four players previously have achieved this – Dave Sutton, Gary Pearce, Anthony Danylyk and Chris McMullen, all club legends.
“The general feeling at the club is that Tim is playing his best football and I believe this is the coaching of manager Neil Baker over the last three seasons.
“Both him and Darren Chadwick have been a constant in the playing squad since I became chairman, and I have become very fond of them both – they feel more like family than players.
“Tim is often the conduit to me from the other players if they need to ask a question or are unsure, a recognition of his maturity from the rest of his peers.
“I can’t say enough good things about Tim, as he is a thoroughly nice person and he seldom gets booked,” added the chairman.