James Tilley currently sits joint second in the League Two scoring chart with four goals and is a key reason for the impressive start that AFC Wimbledon have had to the new season.
The 25-year-old forward-minded midfielder, signed during the Dons big shuffle of the player staff pack, has made an instant impact since making the switch from Crawley Town this summer.
Like most players at this level, Tilley had to take his time to break into first-team football, with loan spells at Cork City and Yeovil Town, before gaining some valuable minutes at Grimsby Town.
It was at Crawley though where he settled, and after two and a half seasons, he made just over 80 appearances.
With a shift of backroom staff that included recruiting a Head of Football Operations, Craig Cope, it has seen some of the players move on that have endured two dispiriting seasons at Plough Lane, which on both occasions has seen the club almost fall out of the Football League.
Tilley was the fifth signing of 10 (so far), showing a real intent of changing the club’s fortunes around. Manager Johnnie Jackson is also reaping the benefits of the summer upheaval and now is building the team to fit his style of play.
Tilley is getting into positions that seem natural but needed coaxing from Jackson. Speaking to the club’s official website, the manager was full of praise for his new winger, after he scored the two goals in midweek to defeat Colchester United;
“I always thought he should have got more goals over the years. I felt we could help him get those goals. He’s added goals for us early doors. The work he does for the team out of possession is equally important. I’m really pleased for him.”
Great Early Season Form
The statistics show that he is completing 61.3% of his passes and has a joint league-high of 4.5 shots per game, with Rhys Oates of Mansfield Town. The playmaker is proving the all-around approach to the Dons game now is far better than it has been for many a year, and his goals so far have helped maintain an unbeaten start while the main strikers are still finding their feet.
Barnsley target Ali Al-Hamadi has yet to find the back of the net, but you feel with his industry and ethic it will only be a matter of time. Like all forwards, he thrives on confidence, and that is visibly low as he missed a golden opportunity against Sutton United on Saturday, only to hit the bar from three yards.
It shows the unity of the team that immediately they kept his head up, and moments later the Dons took the lead through a Ryan Johnson headed goal from a set-piece, as they dominated the last half hour of the derby game to win 3-0.
As with all teams at this early stage in the season, form is difficult to judge. With James Tilley providing a new attacking threat, and with a defence that has only conceded once, Dons fans are rightly singing the praises of the player, and the team.
With a week that sees a home game against Forest Green Rovers and a trip to Newport County coming up, Tilley could well find himself continuing his bright start to his Dons career. There is also the added bonus of a trip to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in between those league games, and what better place than Stamford Bridge to continue his promising early form.