Four-goal Ainge: Beating Alfreton was all that mattered

Simon Ainge celebrates one of his four goals against Alfreton. Picture: Adrian Murray
Simon Ainge celebrates one of his four goals against Alfreton. Picture: Adrian Murray

Harrogate Town’s Simon Ainge says that he took more satisfaction from his team picking up three points than his own goalscoring exploits after netting four times in Saturday’s 6-3 success over Alfreton.

A central defender by trade, modest Ainge was pushed up front as manager Simon Weaver shuffled his pack and tested out a new formation, and he rewarded his boss with a 36-minute hat-trick.

“Obviously I was pleased with the goals, but ultimately it’s all about the result,” he reflected.

“The gaffer has put me up there to be a physical threat and give us something different, and I felt I did that.

“I’ll keep doing whatever I’m asked to do for the team, whether that’s up front or back at centre-half.

“We know we can get back on track and chase the play-offs, so if I can contribute with a few goals along the way that’s a bonus.”

A brace in each half saw Ainge become the first player to score four league goals at the CNG Stadium since Jamie Smith on November 25, 2008 in a 5-2 win over Fleetwood Town.

However, boss Weaver, who set his side up in a new-look 3-5-2 formation at the weekend, has revealed that he was not overly surprised by what unfolded.

“I’m not saying that I expected Aingey to get four, but I was very confident that he would get on the scoresheet,” the Town chief said.

“It was a bit of a gamble, but having seen how well he’s been doing as a striker in training, I knew that he would be a threat.

“We changed the system and wanted to go with two forwards down the middle to take the pressure off JP Pittman, and it’s worked out for us.

“It was a great result to put six past a good team who were in decent form, and for Simon to score four is incredible.”

Ainge has been used as an emergency striker by Weaver in the past and has now struck five goals in the two games he has started up top this season.

Given how well the former Bradford City and Luton Town man has fared in his new position, Weaver admits that he would “be a fool” not to continue playing him in an advanced role.

“It’s a very good option for us and it’s clearly working, plus I don’t think that Aingey would be too happy if he scores four in a game and then I stick him back in at centre-half,” Weaver added.

“He’s so physical and aggressive, obviously good in the air, but also very comfortable with his back to goal, and he can finish.

“He’s a real handful for opposition defences to deal with and is someone who centre-halves don’t seem to relish coming up against.

“I’m delighted with how well he’s done. I was getting a bit of abuse from some of the fans behind me at the start of the game for playing a centre-half up top, so it was even more pleasing for me to see him go on and do a good job for the team.”