Dover Athletic v Harrogate Town: Time to shift focus - Simon Weaver

Following a run of five matches without a victory, Harrogate Town take a break from National League action this weekend.

Friday, 11th January 2019, 8:29 am
Updated Friday, 11th January 2019, 8:34 am
George Thomson cuts a dejected figure following Harrogate Town's fourth defeat in five matches, a 2-1 loss at Sutton United. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Simon Weaver’s men switch their attentions to trying to secure a place at Wembley when they visit Dover Athletic in the second round of the FA Trophy.

And the Town boss believes that Saturday’s clash represents an opportunity to put their recent poor form behind them and shift their focus.

“It will be quite nice to have a break from the league and concentrate on something different – trying to advance in a competition that we really want to win,” Weaver said.

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“It’s a chance to look at the bigger picture, at where we are overall, focus on something different and see if we can get that winning habit back.

“Dover are on a great run and this maybe isn’t the best time to be playing them, however Saturday’s game is one that we’re really looking forward to.

“We will be going all out to get a positive result, but there’s no pressure on the lads.

“Although we haven’t been on the best run, we haven’t been talking about our results, but focusing on our performances, which have largely been good. We just need to tighten up defensively.”

Weaver was critical of the way his team defended following the 2-1 defeat to Sutton United last time out, their fourth loss in five outings.

Thus, remedying those issues at the back has taken priority out on the training pitch this week.

“Our defensive record is not something that we can be proud of currently, so we’ve done plenty of work on defending in training over the last few days,” Weaver added.

“I can’t challenge the players and have a go at them and then not coach them and help them with where they’re going wrong.

“We’ll keep doing the same things every day until they click in the lads’ heads.

“We didn’t play badly at Sutton at all, but we’ve conceded two goals that were easily avoidable.

“It’s about defending the box better. Can the full-backs stop the crosses in the first place? And when the ball does come into our penalty area, we can't switch off.

"We've been getting transfixed by the ball when we need to be marking our men and sticking with runners. Too many times we’ve been watching the ball and we have to improve.”

Dover beat Havant & Waterlooville 1-0 in a first round replay on Tuesday night to set up Saturday’s Trophy showdown with Town.

Having begun the season poorly, winning just one of their opening 15 matches, the arrival of manager Andy Hessenthaler from Eastleigh has helped revive the Whites' fortunes.

Although 18th in the National League, they were second-from-bottom and four points adrift of safety when Hessenthaler returned to the club in early-October and are currently one of the division’s form teams.

His first game at the helm saw Athletic secure a 2-2 draw against Town at the CNG Stadium on October 13 and they have won six of their last nine in the league, conceding just one goal in their previous five outings.