View from the press box: Prolific back four making an excellent case for the defence
Harrogate Advertiser Series sports editor Rhys Howell has his say on the latest goings-on at Harrogate Town.
I have, over the years, heard numerous different football managers state or allude to the fact that while goals win games, clean-sheets win you titles.
Currently third in the National League, Harrogate Town no doubt still harbour ambitions of a first-placed finish this term, yet for all their excellent football since promotion, they haven’t managed to shut out an opponent since their goalless draw with Wrexham back in October.
In fact, only eight teams in the division have an inferior defensive record to Simon Weaver’s men, who have conceded 30 league goals in 24 outings.
While this is far from a dreadful effort, to put it into perspective, that tally is more than double the number that fellow high-flyers Leyton Orient (1st) and Wrexham (4th) have shipped thus far.
I’m sure that these statistics will be of some concern to boss Weaver, a central defender himself by trade, yet they are tempered by the fact that his side are the leading scorers in English football’s fifth tier with 49 strikes to their name.
Jack Muldoon leads the way with 10 goals for the season, while fellow forward Dominic Knowles and centre-half Callum Howe are next having bagged six apiece.
Half-a-dozen goals in just over half a season isn’t a bad return for a defender, yet Howe is not the only member of the Harrogate back four to have enjoyed a productive time in the final third.
Liam Kitching, scorer of the winner in Saturday’s FA Trophy win over York City has four, while Kelvin Langmead and Warren Burrell have both registered on three occasions.
Although Ryan Fallowfield has featured in a number of matches, that quartet of Burrell, Howe, Langmead and Kitching has started a sizeable chunk of games this season, and between them, chipped in with 16 of the club’s 51 goals in all competitions.
That’s 31.37 per cent – almost a third – of the Town total thus far, a staggering contribution.
I wonder how many other teams in the National League, or indeed any division, boast such a prolific back four.
Town’s defenders have played a huge part in the team’s positive start to the campaign, and while I’m sure they’ll be keen to register a few more clean-sheets between now and the end of the season, their impact at the other end of the pitch cannot be underestimated.
The problem for opponents is who to concentrate on when Harrogate's defenders go up for corners and free-kicks.
Howe has proved an absolute menace attacking the back post all season, but you ignore Langmead and Kitching at your peril.
Due to his pace, Burrell normally stays back when the others pile forwards, however, on one of the few occasions he's been unleashed, against Aldershot, he finished the match with a hat-trick.
The threat these men pose at every single set-piece has been crucial in so many games already and will remain so as the club aim to sustain their challenge at the top end of the table going forwards.