Port Vale: Tom Pope looks to put Jamie Cureton in his place
TOM Pope is desperate to come out on top in the battle of the hot-shots.
Port Vale's nine-goal striker goes head-to-head with veteran Jamie Cureton at Exeter City tomorrow.
And the 27-year-old is determined to get the better of the Grecians' frontman – 10 years his senior – who joined him at the top of the scoring charts in midweek.
"I've loved seeing my name at the top of the goals chart and hope to stay there," he said.
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"Cureton has drawn level, but it would be nice to get one over on him tomorrow and be up there on my own again.
"Last season I wasn't near the top of the scoring chart at Vale, let alone the league, so it's a big achievement and something I'm proud of.
"Cureton has been around a long time, but he's still knocking the goals in. He's a really lively player, but hopefully I can grab the limelight."
Pope, whose impressive early tally includes that four-goal haul against former club Rotherham, says he has shocked himself with his exploits this season.
"It has been a surprise ," he added. "I did a lot of hard work in pre-season and I scored quite a few on our trip to Ireland.
"Even though it wasn't against good opposition, it made me believe I could go out there, be a bit more selfish and score goals.
"It's nice to be doing so well after the last couple of seasons I've had. The injuries I've had and the barren spells have made this feel more special."
Pope's previous best tally for a whole season was 10 – during his time with Crewe in 2008/09 – and he modestly puts part of the reason for his improvement down to his team-mates.
"It's been a great start for me, but credit has to go to the way we've been playing," he added.
"When our wingers are on form, they create a lot of chances."
If the front man does find the net tomorrow, he'll become the quickest Vale player to reach 10 goals since Tom Nolan in 1933.
"It would be a great honour," said Pope. "With all the great strikers I've seen at the club, the likes of Martin Foyle and Tony Naylor, to think I could beat them and be the first to 10 goals in such a long time would be a massive achievement.
"But our main aim is three points.
"If we get the win and I score the vital goal, then that would be great."
Pope refuses to set himself targets for any individual campaign.
"The last time I did that was when I signed for Rotherham. I ended up breaking my metatarsal, then did my ankle ligaments and had one of the worst seasons of my career," he added. "I haven't thought of targets since, it can put the mockers on you."
One rather unusual statistic he has been thinking about, however, is the fact that all nine of his goals this season have come in odd-numbered league games.
He was off the mark in match number one, against Barnet, and grabbed another in match three, at Morecambe.
His four-goal blast against Rotherham came in match five, there were two more in number seven, at Fleetwood, then last week's winner at Bradford in match nine.
Fans will be happy to hear tomorrow's clash at Exeter is number 11.
"I'm aware of that, funnily enough," he said. "I pointed it out to John McCombe a few weeks ago. I told him I was going to score because the game was an odd number and I did."