JORDAN Rhodes could never have imagined he would reach 50 goals so soon into his Blackburn Rovers career.
But the prolific striker admits the one that brought up his half-century for Rovers will forever remain bittersweet.
His late penalty at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday should have revived Gary Bowyer’s side’s flagging play-off hopes.
But 84 seconds after his coolly taken spot-kick hit the back of the net the Seagulls equalised to snatch a 3-3 draw which all but ended Rovers’ chances of sneaking into the top six.
“To score 50 goals in under two seasons is definitely better than what I imagined I would do,” said Rhodes, who made a club record £8m move to Ewood Park in August 2012 after scoring 87 goals in 148 appearances for Huddersfield Town.
“It’s been fantastic coming to a club and a team that creates goals and I’m very fortunate that I’m around players who are creating goals, not just for me but for the whole team.
“Playing up front for Blackburn Rovers is a joy, it’s a top club full of top people and it was nice to get to 50.
“It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get the three points on Tuesday.
"There was a lot of time between me taking the penalty and when I was fouled, so I seemed to have the ball in my hands for a quite a bit.
“I was thinking in my head of Millwall away last year – of how big a penalty that was down there – so when the ball went in I thought, ‘yes, that could be the turning point in our season, that might just be the start of a little run’.
“But it wasn’t to be and they managed to get that equaliser.”
Rhodes’ 50 goals – 25 of which have come at home and 25 away – have come in just 89 appearances.
The speed at which the 24-year-old has achieved the major milestone has left Rovers’ all-time leading goalscorer Simon Garner, who scored 194 times for the club between 1978 and 1992, fearing his record could be broken.
Rhodes said: “It would be fantastic (to beat the record) but 194 is going to take some beating!
“These things happen in football and I’m just happy to be playing for Blackburn Rovers and whenever I’m on the field I just work as hard as I can and hopefully the goals go in and, if not, I’m not bothered as long as we’re getting the three points.
“That’s what counts – not records.”
Rhodes has made it his aim to score more goals with his head but he believes he has improved his all-round game since Bowyer took over the Rovers manager’s job.
“I feel as if I have improved,” said the Scotland international, who is now just three goals away from 150 in his senior club career after his brace against Brighton moved him up to 147 in 270 appearances.
“Not just last season but this season as well with the stability we have had.
“I think the manager and his coaching staff have made me a better all-round player.”
Bowyer agrees that Rhodes has got better as a player and not just as a goalscorer.
The Rovers boss said: “I think you’ve always got to be constantly analysing your game and trying to improve and Jordan is no different from that.
“He’s forever looking at ways of making his finishing even better. In training he stays out and does extra work – left foot, right foot, headers.
“His link-up play has improved over the year and that’s something he’s worked hard on.
“He’s got a fantastic attitude for the game.”
But there is no question what his best attribute is.
Bowyer said: “He’s one of the best finishers I’ve ever seen. When he’s in front of goal you know there’s a hell of a chance of the ball going in the back of the net.
“Even on the rare occasions when he misses one he doesn’t let it affect him. He just gets ready for the next one.
“He’s somebody who in turbulent times has been a shining light for us.”
Bowyer also speaks highly of Rhodes the person, labelling him the ‘most polite lad you’ll ever meet’.
But has his star forward ever caused him an ounce of trouble?
Bowyer said: “He had the hump a little bit when he’d missed training all week and he was sub against Nottingham Forest at the beginning of January.
“But that’s a good hump to have – I didn’t mind that one at all!
“Anybody you speak to about him will tell you what a top lad he is and on the pitch he’s a silent assassin.”