What a difference a year has made for Fleetwood’s young gun Ash Hunter.
Since the 20-year-old made the move from non-league Ilkeston 12 months ago, Hunter has made the transition from fringe player to first-team regular at Fleetwood Town.
And two goals in three games – very nearly three, after his effort at Barnsley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was turned in by the keeper – have made the forward the most talked about man in Steven Pressley’s side.
Indeed, given his red-hot form, Hunter may have been more frustrated than most that Saturday’s game at Rochdale was postponed due to a frozen pitch at Spotland.
Not bad for a young footballer who wasn’t getting regular game time in the depths of non-league two years ago.
Hunter joked: “I don’t think I’m going to claim the goal at Oakwell, but if people want to credit me with it I’ll take it.
“But it’s been a good year for myself, going from not playing this time two years ago to where I am now. It’s been a big step.
“Coming out of non-league, I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s good under the new gaffer.
“He works us really hard and I think he gets the best out of us. The whole group has reacted to him.”
Right now Hunter is the man Fleetwood fans are looking at to make things happen.
Pressley has used the youngster at the heart of his attack in recent weeks, a move which paid off with goals against Shrewsbury and Bury.
But Hunter knows everyone is going to have to chip in over the coming weeks.
“We’ve got midweek games three weeks in a row,” said Hunter
“There will be a lot of tired legs in the squad and hopefully the lads will be ready to step in when they are asked.”
Town will certainly need every man as they fight on two fronts – one game away from a Wembley final and one spot above the League One drop zone after Blackpool’s big win.
Hunter said: “There’s always an incentive to win in the cup, especially one game away from Wembley. For some of our lads, it maybe the only time they’ll ever do that.
“In the league, we’ve just got to keep winning and doing our best to climb the table. Everyone’s up for it every week.
“The gaffer gets us fired up for a game, telling us what we need to do and how we need to play.”
Fleetwood travel to second-bottom Colchester tomorrow, looking for a win to move them back above the Seasiders.
Only goal difference is keeping Town above Shrewsbury, who occupy the last relegation spot, though Micky Mellon’s team have played two games more after Saturday’s woeful 3-0 home defeat by Barnsley.
Hunter is hoping Town can build on their improving form on the road.
He said: “Hopefully we can get the win we need. I think we deserve it.
“We’re unbeaten on the road in three and it’s something to build on.
“The last away games we’ve drawn but we really should have won them.
“At Crewe we had so many chances, Shrewsbury too.
“We could have won at Barnsley in the JPT with the chances we had.
“We just need to start putting them away. If we do, we can be right up there.”
As for his own role, Hunter’s happy to be the man down the middle and is desperate to hang on to his place.
“I’m enjoying it more,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of game time, a lot of minutes. It’s just good to be playing.
“It’s nice to be there in the middle for the team. The team has a few injuries but Jamille (Matt) is back.
“Hopefully I can keep playing well and scoring, and keep the shirt.”