Exeter City have a fine history of prolific goal scorers.
Tony Kellow, Jamie Cureton and, more recently, Jayden Stockley are all recognisable names that have been the club’s top scorers in the past.
But, arguably, none have been more influential than Darran Rowbotham, who scored 20 league goals in the 1989/90 season, top scoring for the Grecians as they stormed to the Fourth Division title.
Following his move from Plymouth Argyle in October 1987, Darran had a difficult start to life at St James Park, returning a tally of just two goals in 23 appearances in his maiden season.
However, all that changed in the summer of 1988, as the arrival of Terry Cooper as City manager turned Darran’s form around: he top-scored for the Grecians with 20 league goals.
Unfortunately, the rest of the squad were unable to replicate Darran’s form, and the Grecians finished 13th, 11 points off the play-offs. That all changed though in 1989, as the new season kicked off with City roaring into action, winning all their opening three league matches with Darran scoring his first goal of the season in a 3-0 victory at Hartlepool.
Darran steadily improved his form throughout the season’s opening months, scoring decisive goals in tight home wins over Cambridge, Grimsby and Chesterfield. These crucial strikes were turning single points into three, propelling Exeter up the table to pole position, where they would remain for the majority of the season.
Over the Christmas and new year period Darran’s form hit its peak, as in just eight games he scored 10 goals (in all competitions), including four goals in just a week around new year.
What’s most astonishing about Darran’s 1989/90 season was the fact that he scored his last league goals on March 3, hitting a double in a 3-1 win over York City at St James Park. The striker played just three more games after that before he sustained a serious knee injury, ruling him out for a year.
Darran’s impact on City’s title win will never be forgotten, as without his 20 goals in 32 league games, the Grecians would have lost 24% of their total goal tally, meaning that the title, let alone promotion, would have been very unlikely.