Harrogate Advertiser sports editor Rhys Howell has his say on the latest goings-on at Harrogate Town.
I believe that there will have been three big decisions that Simon Weaver will have had to make regarding his team selection for Saturday’s National League season-opener at home to Solihull Moors.
The first concerns his defence, where, following the departure of Callum Howe, the Town boss really only has five possible options to select his back-four from.
George Smith is the one out-and-out left-back at the club and has made a good impression since his arrival from Chesterfield.
He is sure to start, alongside, I imagine, Will Smith and Connor Hall in the centre-back positions.
Warren Burrell can certainly operate as a centre-half, however I believe that he will be deployed on the right of Weaver’s defence, meaning that Ryan Fallowfield will be the man to miss out.
The reason behind this, I predict, will be due to the aerial strength of Solihull.
Fallowfield has a great leap on him and competes well in the air for a man of his height, but I feel that Burrell has the edge in that department and his experience operating as a centre-half will prove crucial when Harrogate attempt to defend their box against crosses and from set-pieces.
Moving into midfield, and I think that the impact that Brendan Kiernan has made following his switch from Welling United will earn him a start on the right flank.
He has added something extra in that he can take on and beat opposition full-backs, and thus brings an extra dimension to Town’s attacking play.
On the opposite wing, Joe Leesley surely has to get the nod following an impressive pre-season.
He looks fitter than ever, has scored three times and, as is so often the case, provided numerous quality deliveries into dangerous areas.
Josh Falkingham is the team’s captain and talisman and will play in the centre of the park, the second big question is who will sit alongside him.
Now recovered from injury, Jack Emmett has been given extended run-outs in the final two friendlies in a bid to get him up to speed.
In an attacking sense, he is, on his day, simply delightful to watch when he glides past opponents.
He was however a peripheral figure when Solihull did a job on Town the last time the sides met, and I wonder if Scott Brown may start instead of him at the weekend, due to his nous and the edge he plays with.
Moors are a big, physical, combative side, and while Brown isn’t huge in stature, I think this is the type of contest he will relish and thrive upon.
Town will only beat Solihull if they can out-football them, however, they will need to match their visitors in midfield if they are not to be over-run and I think this is why Brown, who was mixing it in League One last term, will be picked ahead of Emmett and even possibly Lloyd Kerry.
Thirdly, who starts up top?
Mark Beck has four goals in pre-season and is the form striker in the squad. I expect that he will get the nod, but I can’t choose between Jon Stead and Jack Muldoon for the position alongside him.
I know that it is early days, but Stead and Sam Jones were playing in the Football League last term and I don’t imagine they’ve dropped down to the fifth tier to sit on the substitutes' bench, making this decision perhaps the most intriguing of all those facing Weaver ahead of Saturday’s contest.