From the Terraces: Harrogate Town's loss to Cheltenham Town a reminder not to get complacent

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.
Harrogate Town striker Aaron Martin competes for the ball during Tuesday's League Two defeat to Cheltenham. Pictures: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town striker Aaron Martin competes for the ball during Tuesday's League Two defeat to Cheltenham. Pictures: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town striker Aaron Martin competes for the ball during Tuesday's League Two defeat to Cheltenham. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

As we tuned in and settled down to watch Town’s trip to Crawley, the victory over Newport – and the manner of the victory over the Welsh team in particular– was still uppermost in the minds of my daughter and I, as we eagerly awaited kick-off.

Even though Crawley is a good 27 miles south of London, the co-commentators put me in mind of Danny Dyer every time they spoke. I appreciate there are probably subtle regional differences in accent but, to the uninitiated, it all sounds Cockney.

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“2-0 to Crawley, says Paul in Southgate. Bob in Guildford thinks it’ll be 3-0 Crawley.” Alright, I’ve made these two up, because I wasn’t taking precise notes at the time, but this was the general thread of email after email from home fans pre-match.

Simon Power gets on the ball at the EnviroVent Stadium.Simon Power gets on the ball at the EnviroVent Stadium.
Simon Power gets on the ball at the EnviroVent Stadium.

The consensus was that the Red Devils were seeking to move into the play-offs and Harrogate, with their lowly league position, were just visiting to make up the numbers.

“Did they not watch Town against Newport?” I exclaimed, turning to Molly. “I think we’ll murder them today.”

Maybe it was an over-reaction from hearing all these Crawley fans predicting a routine home win, but I did feel that the Sussex side were in severe danger of underestimating us. Even so, I don’t think I was quite expecting the first half to pan out as it did.

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We were as brilliant as Crawley were woeful. What made it all the more pleasing was that a dangerous-looking Town actually made their territorial advantage pay, scoring three times and making the bizarre debut of Mark Wright (from The Only Way Is Essex) a torturous experience.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on the programme by the way, and must admit that I thought Crawley had a player called Towie at one early stage.

To their credit, the home commentators were very complimentary about Town’s performance, and disparaging of their own team.

I could see us hitting five, but the second period panned out a little differently. The Crawley players must have had a right roasting in the dressing room and, with three players hauled off, the unfortunate Wright amongst them, they came out with a higher tempo and a little more fight, pulling a goal back within eight minutes through the TOWIE star’s replacement.

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It was the worst possible start to the second 45 for Town, and things proceeded to get worse when Will Smith was sent off halfway through the second period for a professional foul.

One more goal for the home side and it would be panic stations, as in the 3-3 draw at Bromley a couple of seasons ago, where Simon Weaver’s men let a three-goal lead slip.

That it never happened is testament to Town’s organisation on the day, with everybody putting in a defensive shift. Capitalising on our dominance in the first half, especially with Simon Power’s goal just before half-time, certainly helped in giving us the cushion we desired when down to 10 men.

Two wins on the bounce having relieved the downward pressure somewhat, the midweek visit of Cheltenham was seen as a chance to build on the previous victories.

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Yet it didn’t pan out as we hoped, as Town found themselves back in the familiar territory of another 1-0 home defeat to a team near the top of the league.

It was obvious, from the off, that our visitors HAD watched us against Newport and Crawley, and they never let us settle. Every time a Harrogate man received the ball, the visiting players were tight on, much in the manner of the Town players against Crawley. There was no time to think on the ball and pick a forward pass, and our wingers were marked out of the game.

As is usual in this situation, we resorted to lumping the ball up in the air at every opportunity, hoping that someone would get on the end of it, but it was all meat and drink to the colossal three visiting centre-backs.

Cheltenham weren’t bothered about the niceties either and equally lumped it forward, employing long throws into our area at every available opportunity.

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The difference between the two teams was that the Robins took one of the rare chances in a dreadful game, although a returning Jake Lawlor did brilliantly to clear off the line just before, in a first half that the visitors shaded.

I’m not too despondent this morning however, as I think we saw one of the better teams in the division last night, certainly in a defensive capacity and, even though Town didn’t create much, you couldn’t fault the effort from the players, especially in the second half as Cheltenham happily sat back on their lead.

I think Weaver was right with what he said post-match, we have to be braver on the ball and not resort to hit and hope, a.k.a.‘percentage football, in these circumstances, but the work-rate, energy and pressing of our visitors was very impressive last night.

If anything, it fires a warning shot across the bows and, with Southend picking up a rare victory at a sinking Newport, Town can’t afford to be complacent going forward.

Let’s obtain enough points to stay in this division, first and foremost, and then build from there.