In-form forwards firing Town’s fine start to 2017/18 season

Jordan Thewlis celebrates his second goal during Harrogate Town's midweek win over Chorley. Picture: Town PIx
Jordan Thewlis celebrates his second goal during Harrogate Town's midweek win over Chorley. Picture: Town PIx

With their front two having netted 10 goals between them in their opening four games of the season, it is no surprise to see Harrogate Town already flying high in National League North.

Simon Weaver’s men find themselves second in the table having begun 2017/18 with three wins and a draw, thanks in no small part to the form of strikers Simon Ainge and Jordan Thewlis.

Skipper Ainge, left, has netted six times already, while Thewlis boasts four goals in just three appearances, having missed Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Stockport through illness.

“It’s that classic combination of a big target man and a little quick guy running off him and it’s working perfectly for us at the minute,” Town boss Weaver said.

“Aingey is strong, powerful and aggressive and Jordan has lots of pace that enables him to go past defenders and run in behind very effectively.

“They’re playing well together and their understanding of each other’s games is increasing all the time. It’s great to see, and the goals that they have scored so far have been very important in us starting the season they way that we have.

“That said, the whole team deserve a lot of credit because we’ve been keeping things pretty solid at the back as well as creating plenty of chances from midfield for the forwards to finish off.”

Ainge and Thewlis each bagged a brace in Tuesday evening’s 4-1 home triumph over fellow promotion-hopefuls Chorley in a game that Weaver believes was his side’s biggest test of the new campaign.

“I won’t lie, they caused us problems and, for the first time this season, we were forced to adjust our system and the way we were playing,” Weaver added.

“It was our toughest game so far, we had a little bit of a wobble at 2-1 when they were pushing us hard, but we came through it in the end, which is pleasing.”

Boss Weaver made one change from Saturday’s draw at Edgeley Park for Tuesday’s visit of Chorley as Thewlis recovered from illness to take the place of Dominic Knowles.

The pacy forward showed no signs of whatever ruled him out at the weekend and won his side a penalty after two minutes, capitalising on a short back pass before being brought down by visiting goalkeeper Matt Urwin.

Ainge stepped up and shot calmly to the stopper’s right to claim his fifth goal of the campaign and his third from the spot.

The hosts were made to wait 20 minutes for their next chance as Warren Burrell met George Thomson’s corner inside the six-yard box, but glanced wide of the upright.

Thomson then went close to putting Town two ahead at the break as his left-wing free-kick whistled past the far post and a stranded Unwin.

With just two minutes remaining of the half, and moments after Jason Walker had miskicked Andy Teague’s rebounded shot, Ainge claimed his second; heading home Joe Leesley’s lofted cross at the back post.

Matt Jansen’s men made a good start to the second period as Walker’s low shot across goal forced a smart save from the feet of James Belshaw.

The Magpies then clawed a goal back eight minutes after the re-start as Carver received a knock down and went one-on-one with Belshaw before managing to slot past the advancing gloveman.

Despite the visitors’ strong start to the half, a moment of magic from Thewlis ensured that Town restored their two goal advantage with 64 minutes on the clock.

Having collected possession midway inside the Chorley half, he raced past his marker and found the bottom left corner of the net for 3-1.

With 16 minutes left to play, the away team were reduced to 10 men as Scott Leather picked up a second yellow card for a late challenge on Jack Emmett.

With the man advantage, Weaver’s side looked comfortable and pressed for a fourth, with Thomson seeing his strike deflected just wide of the near post.

Ainge almost claimed his hat-trick with three minutes to go, but headed Leesley’s deep cross the wrong side of the post, though Thewlis was able to add to the scoreline as the contest approached stoppage time, converting Leesley’s pull back.

Town return to action on Saturday when they visit Gainsborough Trinity, 3pm kick-off.