LEE CLARK today hailed resurgent striker Lee Novak as Town continued the countdown to Saturday’s League I clash at Exeter.

The 23-year-old is aiming to take his season’s tally into double figures after celebrating his 100th appearance for the club with his ninth goal of the term in the 2-1 home win over Stevenage.

That’s an overall tally of 28 for the man who is vying with Scotland Under 21 hot shot Jordan Rhodes and rugged Alan Lee for a frontline berth at St James Park, Town’s furthest destination this season at 273 miles.

“Lee has been outstanding of late, and it’s great to see him firing on all cylinders after getting a full pre-season under his belt,” said Clark.

“He had a tough time last season because of injures, but hopefully all that’s behind him now.”

Newcastle-born Novak had to be satisfied with five goals last time around after notching 14 in his debut campaign following his switch from Gateshead.

He signalled his intentions with the winner in Town’s opening pre-season friendly against his former club and scored four more ahead of the League I campaign.

The one-time Gretna academy player who also had a spell at now defunct non-league club Newcastle Blue Star got off the mark in the season proper with a double in the 4-1 Carling Cup first-round win at Port Vale and hasn’t looked back.

“We always knew Lee would score goals at this level, because he’s got the hunger, instinct and workrate,” added Clark, whose side are third.

“The effort he puts in makes him popular with both his teammates and the supporters, and we believe he can play a big role for us.”

Rhodes rejoins the squad tomorrow after scoring five times in two appearances for Scotland Under 21s (see Page 38) while Clark hopes midfielder Oscar Gobern will be back after a dead leg kept him out of the Stevenage clash.

Centre-back Jamie McCombe is also available after completing a three-match suspension.

Basement side Exeter also have a fresh central defensive option in Troy Archibald-Henville, who has served a one-match ban.