Bolton Wanderers didn't have to work hard enough for goals against Harrogate Town, laments Simon Weaver

A team that hardly scores any goals and can't keep clean-sheets is never going to win many games of football.

Sunday, 11th April 2021, 11:07 am
Updated Sunday, 11th April 2021, 11:08 am
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

In recent weeks, following an extremely impressive and commendable start to life in the Football League, Harrogate Town have become that side.

The two most fundamental issues any manager can be faced with - an inability to put the ball in the back of the net and a tendency to give away cheap goals - are what Simon Weaver finds himself having to address at this moment in time.

The Sulphurites have lost five of their last six. Almost every single goal they have conceded during that period has stemmed from a defensive mistake or a lapse in concentration.

The Sulphurites were pegged back after Dan Jones lost possession to Lloyd Isgrove just outside his own penalty area.

At the other end, they've looked toothless, failing to score in four full matches prior to Saturday's trip to Bolton Wanderers.

The last month has seen Weaver flit between lamenting his attacking players' failure to finish off chances and bemoaning the costly sequence of individual and collective errors by his defenders.

At the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday, Harrogate finally ended their six-hour goal-drought, though in the end, it was two sloppy moments deep in their own territory which ultimately left them empty-handed and subsequently became this week's post-match talking points.

"They are disappointing goals to concede again, which has been a regular theme recently and has cost us what could have been three points," Weaver reflected.

“We looked a really good team first half, we were in control of the game - apart from the odd blip at the back. There was a slip a couple of times, or a misjudgment - and that’s what happening at the back, which is a bit disconcerting for us because we can be on the front foot and yet causing ourselves problems.

“We need to be solid and reliable and able to sustain our game-plan, which is passing the ball, but also being safe.

"We've had to play some really good football to deserve our goal, whereas when you look at Bolton's goals they haven't really had to work hard to cause mayhem at the back for us to concede.

"Errors have cost us the game."

Out-of-form Harrogate completely outplayed the title-chasing Trotters for most of the first half and deservedly led at the break courtesy of Gethin Jones' 13th-minute own goal.

But, Wanderers were gifted an equaliser on 53 minutes when Dan Jones initially did well to win the ball just outside his own box, before losing possession to Lloyd Isgrove, who slid a low finish beyond James Belshaw.

Having survived a period where Bolton were very much in the ascendancy, the visitors then began to enjoy a little bit of territory, only to then toss what would have been a hard-earned point away.

Under no pressure, Connor Hall attempted to pass the ball back to central-defensive partner Will Smith, but didn't connect properly. Eoin Doyle seized on the error, driving towards goal and slotting a clinical 78th-minute finish past Belshaw.

What makes things worse is that Weaver sat his defenders down the day before the game and reviewed video footage in an attempt to show them where they had been going wrong in previous weeks.

"We went back through all the goals we've conceded [recently] with the defenders on Friday and, other than Forest Green's second goal and Scunthorpe's first, we've let in really bad goals that we would have been disappointed to have conceded in National League North, so this is something that can be improved upon," he added.

"Communication, organisation and having enough understanding of the game are very important to keep your back-line intact.

"I feel like we need a second goal at the moment because we've got defensive blips in us, unfortunately, and it is a recurring theme that we're talking about. We're good to a certain extent but then we manage to lose a game that we really shouldn't be losing.

"For the amount of pressure we had first half and the good football, Bolton only conceded one. We weren't dominated by any stretch but we managed to concede two poor goals."

Defeat sees Town drop to 17th in the League Two standings.