Carabao Cup exertions saw Harrogate Town 'run out of steam' in Walsall clash, says Simon Weaver

Simon Weaver conceded that Harrogate Town's midweek Carabao Cup exertions probably did contribute to a disappointing second-half display in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Walsall.

Sunday, 20th September 2020, 8:47 am
Updated Sunday, 20th September 2020, 9:22 am
Pointing the way: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver watches on during his side's 2-2 draw with Walsall at the Keepmoat Stadium. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The League Two newcomers, who went toe-to-toe with Premier League West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, fought back from a goal down to take a 2-1 lead into the interval at the Keepmoat Stadium, Aaron Martin and Jack Muldoon the men on target.

They did however spend the majority of the second period camped inside their own territory and - rather uncharacteristically- struggled for possession, with a number of their players seeming to run out of steam as the afternoon wore on.

A Walsall equaliser looked on the cards, and eventually arrived on 81 minutes when Josh Gordon followed up after Joe Cracknell saved his spot-kick, earning the Saddlers a deserved share of the spoils.

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Town were forced to defend their own box for long periods of the second half.

But, having had to work so hard to compete with the Baggies in midweek, there was always a possibility that the same starting XI would tire during the latter stages of Saturday's League Two encounter.

Asked if he felt that his players' energy levels were depleted due to how much effort they expended at the Hawthorns, Weaver replied: "I think probably, yeah. It was a new experience for everyone, live on Sky, it was going out live in a lot of countries, and everyone rose to the challenge, they did ever so well after a brilliant opening day of the season.

"You could see a few heavy legs out there, second half we ran out of steam. It [the penalty that led to Walsall's equaliser] was a culmination of events where we looked visibly tired.

"Perhaps the events of the last week, our first-ever League Two game followed by the League Cup at West Brom live on television, all that excitement, led to a few tired bodies.

"The players are disappointed probably because of the lack of clarity in their heads in terms of problem-solving under pressure and some wrong decisions out there from really good players, maybe because the energy ran out and it led to that [Walsall's equaliser] - it's always the brain that's affected when you tire.

"But, this is still a good point against a very good team."

A big positive on the day for Weaver was the way his side responded to the disappointment of falling behind to Rory Holden's fourth-minute strike from a well-worked corner routine.

"I was very pleased with how the lads came back from that early setback, especially after the other night [at WBA], because they could have thought 'it's going to be a long day here'," the Town boss added.

"The initial reaction was fantastic, we hit the bar, had a close-range effort blocked, then scored two good goals. The response was brilliant for the remainder of the first half, in the second we ran out of steam.

"We probably had one half, they had the other half, so it's a fair point for both teams, though they might feel disappointed because they were finishing strong."