Sutton United 2 Harrogate Town 1: Simon Weaver blames defence for fourth defeat in five
Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver laid the blame for Saturday's National League defeat to Sutton United squarely at the door of his defence.
The men from Wetherby Road were condemned to a fourth 2-1 loss in five outings by an 82nd-minute strike at Gander Green Lane, the fifth match in succession where they have dropped points due to conceding late on.
"It's really frustrating. We've had four 2-1 defeats in the last couple of weeks now and we really should have been winning at least three out of the four," Weaver reflected.
"It's fine lines, but they [Sutton] defended their box so much better considering all the dominant play we had.
"I think the front six did great. It's not Mark Beck's fault, it's not George Thomson's or Josh Falkingham's fault that we've lost that game today.
"I have to look at the defensive unit and think we haven't defended that goal well enough."
Weaver was disappointed by the way his side conceded the first goal of the afternoon, though it was the defending that led to Harry Beautyman's late winner that really grated.
"It was poor defensively, the first goal, and the second was probably even worse," he added.
"There's a cross into the box, but we're watching the ball. Again. We're marking space rather than the man, and space doesn't score, it's the man, obviously.
"But, if you're not aware of where the man is then we're in trouble and it's a recurring theme.
"It's in the middle of the box where we're not defending it at the minute. It's as simple as not marking up and ball-watching, and we've seen that for weeks.
"You continually work hard at it in training sessions, but we need to address that situation. It's basic defending.
"We've been trying to get a body in to add competition to the back line, but it's easier said than done."
Town stopper James Belshaw had to pull off a flying save to keep out Tom Bolarinwa's early long-range strike, however he was powerless to prevent Sutton breaking the deadlock in the 19th minute of Saturday's contest.
Jonah Ayunga met Beautyman's free-kick with his head and glanced an effort past the visiting custodian.
George Thomson forced Ross Worner into action at the other end and Lloyd Kerry fired narrowly off target as Town pressed for a way back into the game, though Craig Eastmond almost extended the home lead, seeing a strike deflected agonisingly the wrong side of an upright.
There were no more goals before the interval, but Weaver's men levelled matters on the hour-mark.
Thomson, on target against Halifax last time out, shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled a stunning effort into the top corner from the edge of the United box.
Mark Beck just failed to reach Joe Leesley's inviting low cross from the left soon afterwards as Town sought to turn the game on its head, yet it was the hosts who struck next.
With 82 minutes on the clock, an unmarked Beautyman turned the ball home just six yards out when substitute Brandon Thomas-Asante flicked a Dale Bennett centre into his path.
The visitors almost snatched a late leveller when Worner punched the ball clear and, with the keeper out of position, Thomson unleashed a goal-bound 35-yard effort, only for Eastmond to clear off the line.
The ball then fell to Beck, but he was thwarted by a good Worner stop and the points went to Sutton, a result that lifts them above Town (7th) and into sixth in the table.