IT may only be the first day of January, yet one more goal for Darlington striker Reece Styche and he will equal his target for the season.

Sixteen is the most he has ever scored in a campaign, netted while at Forest Green, and he is already on 15 for this season, a total boosted by a remarkable five goals in his first three games for Quakers.

The 28-year-old bagged ten for Tamworth in the opening months of this season before being brought to Blackwell Meadows in November by manager Tommy Wright, who assured supporters that they would love his new signing, that he would become a cult hero.

He was not wrong.

Two goals came in his first game, an FA Trophy tie with Harrogate Town, becoming the first Darlington debutant to score a double since 1988, then came a consolation effort in a 3-1 loss at Gainsborough Trinity, before a brace on Boxing Day, again against Harrogate in a 3-1 league win.

Having scored four of his goals against Harrogate, two of them penalties, game number four today is another match with the North Yorkshire promotion hopefuls and a trip to the CNG Stadium, where Styche hopes to achieve his 16-goal target.

He said: “I was on ten at Tamworth, but I missed all of September with a fractured cheekbone, and I’ve got 15 now. I need one more and then go from there.

“I want to beat that, so I’ve got one more to get and then it’s a case of scoring as many as I can.

“My goal was to score more than I ever have in one season, which was 16 at Forest Green. I was injured for a month of that season, so I might’ve scored more, and it was in a struggling team.”

The two penalties were both against former Tamworth team-mate James Belshaw, bringing with them a certain amount of mind games.

“It was quite funny having a penalty against him as he knows that I always go to the same side. It was cat and mouse,” says Styche.

“The first one, I knew he would dive that way so I put the ball down the middle instead.

“The second one was so strange – in the days leading up to the game I almost knew I was going to have a penalty, and thought I would put it in the same side that I always go. I did and luckily James went the other way, he tried to second guess me.”

Styche is Darlington’s third penalty taker of the season, Terry Galbraith having now seemingly stepped down from spot-kick duty after missing in September against FC United, before Stephen Thompson took responsibility against Boston.

Styche explained: “The first game, you want to get off the mark and Thommo let me have it. After that the gaffer asked if I’m the penalty taker now, I said ‘no it’s still Thommo’, but the gaffer said ‘I don’t think we’ve got a designated taker, you’re on them now’.

“You don’t want to be coming in and taking over, and I did say that to the manager.

“But he’s the manager and he’s made the decision to put me on them, so I’ll take it because it boosts your goal tally.

“I’ve always been on them at my previous clubs, especially at Tamworth and last season. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I haven’t missed one in quite a while.”

That Styche is taking penalties at all for Darlington marks a turnaround in events, bearing in mind a particularly prickly meeting at Blackwell last April.

During the first half of a match with Tamworth an angry Gary Brown ran to the referee vigorously complaining that Thompson, who at this point was lying motionless, had been elbowed.

A similarly incensed Phil Turnbull did likewise and gestured an elbowing motion, while Styche, the assailant, had a lengthy discussion with referee.

He escaped punishment, while Thompson was able to continue - they now share a changing room, with Thompson having handed penalty-taking duties to his new team-mate.

Styche explained: “I tried to pin him, and everyone was saying I had elbowed him, but I hadn’t. We’ve had a laugh about it now, everything is fine.

“Me and Thommo get on really well and it’s the same for all of the lads, they’ve made me feel really welcome. Me and Thommo sit next to each other in the changing room, we’re a similar age and we get on really well, which is funny because of the to do on the pitch before. All that has been forgotten.

“They’re a good set of lads and that makes it easier as a new player. Coming into a team like that and immediately being accepted is great, I’m really enjoying it.”

Scoring goals no doubt helps a new striker to settle, Darlington being the 14th club Styche has played for.

He travels from his home in Cannock, Staffordshire – “really close to Hednesford Town’s ground,” he says. “I’ve never moved, I travelled to Forest Green, I travelled to Wycombe, at Gateshead I stayed in a club house. The travelling doesn’t bother me, it takes me two hours 20 minutes to get back.

“You can’t really expect to hit the ground running, but I’ve always seemed to do well on my debuts – I remember at Forest Green, Nuneaton and Tamworth I scored in my first games for them.

“I was hoping that trend would carry on and thankfully it did, but it wasn’t a good result for us at the time as we lost 3-2. We played well and were unlucky not to beat them.

“There’d been a lot of talk of lads being low on confidence. I didn’t think it was that, but we had to get that first win.

“On Boxing Day we cut out the defensive mistakes we’ve been making and as a team defensively we were brilliant.

“I put something on Twitter – it’s the biggest cliché in football about working hard, but I’m a massive believer in that. If you do work hard you get your rewards.

“One thing we showed on Boxing Day is that we had more balls about us. We worked hard and wanted it more – I think they thought they could turn up, being a full-time team, a big budget, and they’d turn us over because of the form that we’ve been in. But anyone can beat anyone in this league.”