Town forced to settle for point at FC United

Harrogate Town celebrate after Tom Platt, right, gave them the lead against FCUM. Picture: Town Pix
Harrogate Town celebrate after Tom Platt, right, gave them the lead against FCUM. Picture: Town Pix

Harrogate Town were forced to settle for a point after twice being pegged back at FC United of Manchester.

Tom Platt and debutant Kuda Muskwe struck early on in each half of Saturday’s National League North clash, but the hosts twice came back and thought they had snatched a stoppage-time winner, only to be denied by a linesman’s flag.

Boss Simon Weaver made two enforced changes from last weekend’s 1-0 win over Bradford Park Avenue, with Louie Swain and Muskwe replacing the suspended strike pairing of Simon Ainge and JP Pittman.

Town made a superb start to the afternoon winning a corner inside the opening two minutes as Swain’s header was turned over by Adriano Basso.

There was nothing the Reds’ stopper could do from the resulting set piece though, as Platt met Joe Leesley’s delivery at the back post to head the visitors into an early lead.

Town almost grabbed a second four minutes later as Warren Burrell slid in to win possession in the home area and forced a save from Basso at his near post.

The visitors went close to doubling their advantage again, but were twice unable to find the finishing touch as Swain and Burrell fell just short of meeting Joe Colbeck and Leesley’s inviting deliveries.

Moments after Muskwe had dragged just wide on the counter-attack, Karl Marginson’s men pulled level when Jake Williams played in Jason Gilchrist, whose finish clipped the legs of Platt and wrong footed Peter Crook in the Harrogate goal.

The hosts almost pulled off a remarkable turnaround in the 33rd minute when Matthew Wolfenden expertly collected a diagonal ball and volleyed towards goal, only for Crook to deflect the effort onto the cross bar.

While Town had started better, FC United finished the half strongly and could have been ahead if not for the wayward shooting of winger Thomson.

Weaver’s troops then started the second period like they did the first; with a goal inside the opening three minutes.

Muskwe managed to get a toe on the ball before Basso, and was quickest to the loose ball to squeeze it past a covering defender and into the net for a debut goal.

Swain had a chance to make it a two-goal lead just before the hour-mark as the striker controlled Lloyd Kerry’s lofted pass on his chest, but powered just wide of the far post.

Colbeck was next to go close for the visitors, though Basso tipped round the post for a corner, from which Luke Shiels headed over the bar.

Despite the majority of chances falling the visitors’ way, the Red Rebels again levelled as Thomson fired in low from the edge of the area.

Marginson introduced Tom Greaves before Town could get the game back underway, and the decision nearly paid dividends within three minutes, though Greaves couldn’t find the finishing touch from a yard out.

The visitors were not without chances to win the game in the closing stages as twice Muskwe headed off target, before Basso pulled off an excellent save to deny Shiels’ late header.

In what was almost the final kick of the game, Gilchrist thought he had claimed all three points for the hosts, only to have applied the finish in an offside position.

The draw keeps the men from the CNG Stadium in 10th position in the league standings, five points shy of a play-off spot.