Cook Collects First Award Of Many As Tolaj Takes Chance

By Sam Elliott

Start as you mean to go on? It already seems certain this won’t be the last trophy Paul Cook gets his hands on in 2024.

The Chesterfield boss began the year just as he intends to continue it - with an honour in his arms.

It’s bold to say anything is won inside the first month of any calendar year but the queue of people prepared to bet against the super Spireites will be shorter than the list of sides who have taken points off them at home this season.

It was an almost perfect four weeks for the Manager of the Month, winning five from five in the National League. They go into this weekend’s matches 22 points clear and it’s pretty obvious to most that a lot of records are about to tumble.

Cook won’t have many regrets this month, but he will be wondering ‘what if’ after his side pushed Championship Watford so close. Even so, they widened the gap to sixteen points by the end of January, defeating Solihull Moors, Gateshead, Altrincham, Woking and Southend United.

They scored 14 times in January, an average of 2.8 goals a game, while only two sides conceded less than the leaders last month. He should probably get used to collecting these accolades!

With the transfer window open, we saw a number of National League players earn EFL moves - but one talked-up player remained put.

Lorent Tolaj attracted plenty of deadline day chatter but in the end, he knew he was onto a good thing with the Shots.

It’s clear to see why the links existed. He shone last month with four goals and an assist, playing every minute to keep his club in the mix for the top seven. That after fuelling their FA Cup adventure.

The 22-year-old Swiss was swashbuckling as he inspired his team from the front, netting in games against Woking, Bromley, Rochdale before a beauty at Wealdstone.

Without his goals Aldershot would be five points worse off and nowhere near the last play-off place they currently occupy.

There’s little doubt EFL clubs will be keeping a close eye on his progress but Shots fans think he can get there with them, spearheading their attack.

Well done to our two deserved winners!

Where next?

Will There Be Even More Trophy Drama Ahead On Saturday? With a last round packed full of upsets, what will the FA Trophy last 16 bring this weekend?
Peaks And Waldock Are The North's January Big Winners It’s time to meet the really strong starters to 2024 in the Vanarama National League North.

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