From the Terraces: Leyton Orient result a sign of progress for Harrogate Town
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.
The often trotted-out cliché about Harrogate Town this year is that we’ve been competitive in nearly every league game we’ve played.
The 5-2 drubbing by Scunthorpe aside, we haven’t been turned over by anyone, apart from a regulation 3-0 defeat earlier in the season at Leyton Orient.
I say ‘regulation’ because, until last night, in three previous matches against the O’s, we’d conceded eight goals and scored none.
So, what an absolute joy it was to watch an end-to-end thriller of a 2-2 draw against our visitors from East London. After all, there are only so many narrow, fairly dour 1-0efeats the soul can take.
For the first time in a good while, Town had me on the edge of my seat going forward in the second half, looking as if they might score from every attack.
It was all very different from the first half where, as at Bolton on Saturday, Simon Weaver’s men were by far the better team, but just couldn’t turn their superiority into the requisite number of goals.
When Orient scored in the first minute of the second half, it would have been easy for Harrogate heads to drop, as mine did. ‘Here we go again,’ I found myself sighing inwardly.
The turning point came with Dan Jones’ soft header sneaking past the occasionally shaky visiting keeper, setting up what turned into an absolute belter of a second period.
You could see the belief flood back into the team, and all due credit must be given to the players for overcoming a disastrous second Orient goal and a missed penalty to come back again, whilst ending the match feeling they could and should have won it.
That said, we do have to be grateful for a point-blank James Belshaw save from dangerous O’s striker Danny Johnson late on.
What struck me most about the match, though, was that we had to wait until the 90th minute for a first long Jones throw-in of the night.
Prior to that, there was a greater desire to take short throw-ins and play along the ground and, with Josh McPake running at defenders with such confidence, the change in tactics appeared to reap dividends.
Although Jones’ long, low trajectory throw-in is certainly a potent weapon to be utilised, I think that Town have been over-relying on this tactic in recent weeks, and things all started to become a little bit predictable, thus blunting the threat.
It’s better to mix it up, in my opinion, and use it as one weapon in the overall armoury, whilst keeping your opponents guessing.
I think the Orient match proves my point, as Town were able to take short offensive throw-ins, move the ball quickly and keep the pressure on an, at-times, stretched visiting defence.
Then, when Jones did trot across to take a late, long throw, I got all excited about the prospect again.
If the Town players were certainly up for it, Orient’s approach also contributed to a wonderfully open game, as a draw was no good for their play-off ambitions.
All in all, I see the result as some sort of progression, in our first season, against a team we’ve previously doffed our caps and tugged our forelocks to.
Just imagine this week if the pandemic hadn’t hit and fans were allowed into grounds.
A trip to an ex-Premier League, promotion-challenging Bolton Wanderers, followed by a visit from Leyton Orient, a team which three seasons ago were responsible for me walking out of Marks & Spencer on a Saturday morning without playing for my food, so excited was I by the prospect of their pending visit to Wetherby Road.
Now imagine this Saturday and a full-house to see Town entertain Bradford City, whilst attempting to do the double over their near neighbours.
The Bantams used to send reserve teams to Wetherby Road for pre-season friendlies, until they ended up on the end of a seven-goal thumping. I trust they’ll be treating us with a little more respect this coming weekend.
Come what may, the real achievement of this week is that, as a result of the point gained against Orient,Town are now just three points short of mathematically confirming their place in League Two for another season, when hopefully we can all get to go and witness these things in person.