Kane Hester of Elgin City (Photo Credit: Northern Scot)

SPFL Goalscorers: Who have been the most clinical players in Scotland this season?

12 mins read

Scottish mens football has not been short of drama since its grand return back in August. Celtic’s reign of dominance has crumbled, COVID-19 regulations have caused teams to drop points and League Two sides are battling valiantly against recently turned full-time Queens Park.

So what has made this season so exciting? What, in essence, makes all of football so exciting? Goals.

Goals make football. Goals are what we fall in love with, goals are what we watch back, goals are what we try to recreate. Luckily, there have been plenty of them in Scotland so far this season: 243 in the Premiership, 91 in the Championship, 83 in League Two, 101 in League Two (remember the Premiership started earlier).

But who has been scoring them? Which players lead the scoring charts, and who has the best goals-per-minutes- ratio? I’ve taken a deeper look at the stats to find out.

There are no bonus points for guessing who the Premiership top scorer is so far; James Tavernier leads the pack, and it’s not hard to see why.

The Englishman was already an attacking threat before Steven Gerrard took charge at Ibrox, but since then his game has went to another level. Gerrard’s tactics in the final third place great emphasis on the full backs (surely no coincidence, with the same style of play utilised at Liverpool) and Tavernier has flourished. He has ten goals in sixteen appearances this season, scoring at a rate of once every 144 minutes.

Being Rangers’ designated penalty taker has its benefits, with six of Tavernier’s goals this season being from the spot. At the end of the day, however, Tavernier leads the race for the Golden Boot – and history won’t remember the penalties if he comes out on top.

He isn’t the only player benefitting from spot kicks, however. Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson’s tally of eight league goals has been bolstered by six successful efforts from penalties, which means his 75% reliance rate on penalties is greater even than his Rangers counterpart’s. His similarities to Tavernier continue when it comes to his rate of scoring, averaging a goal every 141 minutes.

I hear you: Lord, please let there be someone in the top three who hasn’t stat padded their tallies via penalty kicks. Your prayers have been answered, with Hibernian’s Kevin Nisbet joining Ferguson on the eight-goal mark. Nisbet has only scored two penalties in the league so far this season, meaning his six goals from open play trump the two players above him in the list. He has scored less frequently, though, with one every 152 minutes.

So Tavernier, Ferguson and Nisbet lead the charts in terms of raw numbers, but who has been the most effective based on their minutes on the pitch? Two Old Firm players battle out in this category; Kemar Roofe has scored once every 98 minutes during his game time, and Albian Ajeti every 94. Neither have taken a penalty, either, which only makes their rates that bit more impressive.

Roofe and Ajeti’s efforts pale in comparison to Dunfermline’s Kevin O’Hara, however. With eleven Championship players currently on the three-goal mark, a minutes-per-goal metric is the only way to separate them – and O’Hara leads by a long way. The striker has converted a chance, on average, every 65 minutes, which statistically makes him much more clinical than any of our Premier League stars.

However, O’Hara has failed to complete 90 minutes so far this season. In fact, he has only played for longer than 25 minutes on two occasions. All three of his goals came in a single game as his side routed Alloa Athletic; he entered the fray as a 66th minute substitute and duly scored a hatrick. It’s therefore fair to say that his statistics are rather bloated.

Nikolay Todorov of Inverness Caley Thistle boasts a minutes-per-goal rate of 98, and has scored three goals in five games. Raith Rovers’ Manny Duku has been perhaps equally as impressive, scoring once every 118 minutes despite missing only 96 minutes of his side’s league campaign so far. This hints that Championship goalscorers are converting chances at a more effective rate than Premiership players.

The League One scoring charts are just as tight as the Championship’s, with three players locking horns having scored five goals apiece – but who has scored more frequently? Mitch Megginson gave League Two defenders nightmares last season as Cove Rangers eased their way to the title, and he’s continued his exploits this year. Five goals in six games, with 105 minutes per goal, is an impressive return.

Jack Hamilton isn’t far behind, matching Megginson when it comes to goals and games played. He just loses out in terms of effectiveness, with 106 minutes per goal; the two players couldn’t be closer if they tried. Hamilton’s stats are even more impressive considering East Fife sit seventh in the table, while Megginson’s Cove are second.

Dale Carrick of Airdrieonians has five goals in seven games, which is no mean feat. None of these three have been as clinical as Montrose’s Russell McLean, however, who has scored an average of a goal every 70 minutes. He is one behind in the scoring charts, but his rate is the second highest across the top three leagues so far. His name has to be in this conversation.

Elgin City have been impressive in League Two, and their efforts have been spearheaded by Kane Hester’s fine form in front of goal. The 25-year-old is two goals clear of any other player, with six after six games. His rate of 88 minutes per goal is one of the most impressive in the country, and he’ll need to keep it up if his side are to have any hope of catching early pacesetters Queens Park.

Stirling Albion’s Andy Ryan has four goals in seven appearances so far, the same record as Greig Spence of Stenhousemuir; Spence leads when it comes to minutes per goal, however, with 133 to Ryan’s 152.

So surely Hester has the best scoring rate in League Two? Think again. He has competition from an unlikely source at Queens Park.

Simon Murray has only played 43 minutes of football so far this season. He’s taken full advantage of his game-time, however, having notched two goals during his limited time on the pitch. Interestingly, both were scored in the 90th minute. The time of his goals don’t matter, though, because the simple fact is that he’s scored at a rate of once every 22 minutes. That technically means he’s been the most clinical player in the country so far this season.

Obviously, scoring twice in two substitute cameos doesn’t mean that Murray is the best finisher in Scotland (or even in his league, for that matter). For these stats to be reliable, a player should have built up a respectable number of minutes and continually scored at a reliable rate.

So who have the best goalscorers been? We have to look at things sensibly, and make sure we aren’t blinded by stats. James Tavernier has scored the most goals in the country up to this point, which is an incredible feat for a right-back. On the other hand, he has been helped by six penalties and the fact that Premier League clubs are around ten games ahead of the lower leagues.

Todorov scored at an impressive rate as the Championship season began, but has only played six minutes since November 7th. Manny Duku looks more likely to keep up his goalscoring feats, while O’Hara’s rate of scoring will slow down after the effects of his hatrick wear off.

Russell McLean will do well if he stays on the track he’s on right now, but Mitch Megginson leads the way in League One having scored five goals at a rate of one per 105 minutes.

Hester’s League Two record is one of the most impressive in the country, but Simon Murray’s flash-in-the-pan performances have seen him take the accolade for the most clinical player so far this season.

Conclusion? It’s too soon to judge completely accurately, with teams below the Premiership having played less minutes. However, we can see that (at the moment) lower league players are scoring at a quicker rate than their Premiership counterparts. Whether they keep this up remains to be seen.

Tavernier leads the scoring charts, and Murray has been the most clinical. Hester and Megginson have been among the most impressive in terms of goalscoring, while Kevin Nisbet has scored the most from open play in the Premiership. We can only hope these players continue to deliver each week to supplement our desire for goals and excitement in Scottish football.

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