Harpenden's Jonathan Lacey is still coming to terms with the fact he was top scorer in the 2023-2024 FA Cup.

The former Sir John Lawes School pupil was awarded the golden ball award for scoring 10 goals during Biggleswade Town's cup campaign this season, a run that took them to the fourth qualifying round.

However, the goals of the attacking midfielder, known to all as JJ, meant he beat Ramsgate's Joe Taylor, Ellis Simms of Coventry City and even goal machine Erling Haaland of Manchester City to the crown.

Herts Advertiser: JJ Lacey receives his prize from Dion Dublin. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/THE FAJJ Lacey receives his prize from Dion Dublin. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/THE FA (Image: Getty Images and the FA)

"It's like a dream," said the 25-year-old. "The FA Cup brings everyone into the same bracket and to see my name against some of these players and to have been competing against them is amazing.

"This is probably the biggest moment of my career so far. It's right up there.

"Football has always been fun for me and I never had the opportunity to consider it too much as a job or career.

"Having the opportunity to play in this competition is something I never even thought about growing up and so to win this award is just a massive bonus and I'm very grateful to have the experience."

Lacey, who works as an architectural technologist outside of football, took up the sport aged four and played at Harpenden Colts before finding games at Leverstock Green, Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead.

He joined the Waders last July and his goals away from the cup helped them to the Southern League Division One Central title this season.

But as he realised he had a chance of the FA Cup award, he was determined to make the unexpected happen.

"The second qualifying round we played Bishop Stortford away and I scored a hat-trick and then I scored again in the replay match," he said.

"After that, I randomly saw my name appear on a list that said I was in the running for Golden Ball and from there I was quite keen to keep scoring. It was in the back of my mind from there.

"Our last FA Cup game, we had Solihull Moors away and we new we were realistically never going to beat them, but I backed myself to score and I did.

"I guess that was the one that won this award for me."

The only player who could make a last-minute challenge on the Biggleswade player's claim as top goal scorer was Manchester City's Haaland but Lacey was already five goals ahead of the Norwegian even before the final, which saw Haaland's side defeated 2-1 by Manchester United.

Lacey was in the crowd and was presented by the award following the conclusion of the final at Wembley Stadium, invited along as a guest to watch the game and carry out the Mitre Ultimax Pro match ball for kick-off.

It's an opportunity Lacey was thrilled to share alongside his family and club and one that further fuelled his new dream of one day helping his side reach the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.

He said: "A few of the management and board were able to get to Wembley for the presentation as well as my family so overall this is a great recognition for the club and me.

"The FA Cup everything to the lower leagues. We all dream of having that FA Cup day out even if it's a later qualifying round or even getting to the first round.

"As a player I would love to reach the first round at one point but the opportunity the competition gives players and clubs by being able to compete each year is massive."