Harrogate Town 0 Blackpool FC 4: 'We'll lick our wounds and come back fighting', says Simon Weaver

A second-half implosion saw Harrogate Town concede four times on their way to their way to a comprehensive FA Cup defeat to Blackpool.

Saturday, 28th November 2020, 6:10 pm
Updated Sunday, 29th November 2020, 8:54 am
Harrogate Town's Calvin Miller is challenged by Blackpool's Keshi Anderson. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites were denied the opportunity to progress to the competition's third round for the first time in their 106-year history by some clinical finishing from their League One opponents, though manager Simon Weaver was not too downbeat at the full-time whistle.

"It can be a cruel game and it's disappointing to end up losing 4-0," he said.

"When we drew Blackpool, we thought 'its a tough one'. They are a terrific team. We knew that we'd be up against it, especially given our injuries at the minute.

Town manager Simon Weaver.

"We competed well for 45 minutes and were well in the game. I was very proud of the first-half performance but they drew confidence from two goals from set-pieces. The second half is defined by those goals, which is disappointing because it's nothing to do with open-play football, or the game-plan itself.

"But it is what it is. We're hurting from the last two goals, but that's because the game gets stretched and we've got to learn from that if we want to keep progressing.

"We'll learn harsh lessons from today. We lick our wounds and make sure we come back fighting. It's not such a major set-back, it's always a bonus the FA Cup and we have to make sure that we're not too bruised by this experience ahead of Scunthorpe on Tuesday.

"We'll move on quickly and not dwell on it."

Although his side were well-beaten in the end, Weaver felt that things could perhaps have unfolded very differently if Jack Muldoon had been able to finish off a first-half one-on-one opportunity with the game still goalless.

"We had a chance, one-versus-one, if that goes in, it definitely changes the game," he added.

"Jack's not used to people catching him up. They just caught him up in the nick of time, it was a timely tackle.

"I prefer to say it's good defending, rather than him not pulling the trigger in time. You probably don't have the seconds on the ball that you do in League Two or the National League when you play a League One team."

Missing three of their first-choice defenders, the hosts lined up with a back-four which bore little resemblance to the one which kept a clean-sheet at Mansfield in midweek.

Tuesday night's centre-halves - Warren Burrell and Connor Hall - occupied the full-back positions, with Jake Lawlor and Kevin Lokko forming an all-new partnership at the heart of the defence.

And, although Hall initially looked rather uncomfortable up against the pace of CJ Hamilton down the Blackpool right, Harrogate defended their box pretty well during the opening half.

Lawlor produced a composed display, while Burrell twice made crucial blocks in dangerous positions during the opening exchanges before the clearest opening of the half materialised at the other end of the field.

The presence of Mark Beck was sufficient to unsettle the visiting centre-backs, allowing Muldoon to run in behind them and clean through on goal.

With just Chris Maxwell to beat, Town's leading scorer would however wait an age to pull the trigger, allowing Marvin Ekpiteta to recover and execute an excellent last-ditch challenge from behind.

The tenacity of Lloyd Kerry and Josh Falkingham, in particular, in the middle of the Town midfield ensured that Weaver's men continued to compete throughout the rest of the opening period, with chances at either end at a premium.

The second period began with Calvin Miller getting down the left and sending a hopeful effort narrowly over the top of the Tangerines' bar, moments before the deadlock was broken.

Harrogate-born Luke Garbutt delivered an in-swinging corner from the right which skidded off the head of Falkingham at the near post and past Belshaw.

An excellent bit of play down the right by Burrell then created another opportunity for Muldoon, though his strike from just inside the penalty area lacked conviction and was easily gathered by Maxwell.

A stunning double-save from Belshaw to deny Ben Woodburn then Hamilton on the follow-up looked like it had kept Harrogate in the game on the hour-mark, though the resulting corner would lead to the away lead being doubled.

Garbutt's initial delivery was cleared by Lawlor, but only as far as Grant Ward, whose low shot found it's way through a sea of bodies from around 20 yards out.

Belshaw had to make two more excellent stops to twice thwart Hamilton, in between Town substitute Brendan Kiernan forcing Maxwell into his first meaningful bit of action with a blast from range.

With the hosts working hard to try and claw their way back into the contest, a third arrived for Blackpool on the counter-attack on 85 minutes, right-back Jordan Gabriel tapping in after Demetri Mitchell's effort came back off the inside of the upright.

Things got even worse for Town in stoppage-time when Lokko fell over, then, in attempting to get back to his feet, brought down Madine as he embarked on what would have been a clear run in on Belshaw's goal.

Given his desperation to caution home players almost every time they made a foul, it came as no surprise when referee James Oldham produced a red card and sent the ex-Dover Athletic defender for an early bath.

The Tangerines then registered a fourth from the ensuing right-wing free-kick, Bez Lubala nodding Garbutt's delivery goalwards at the far post for Dan Kemp to crash home almost on the goal-line.

Harrogate: Belshaw; Burrell, Lawlor, Lokko, Hall; Thomson, Falkingham (Kirby 88) , Kerry, Miller (Kiernan 63); Muldoon, Beck. Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Fallowfield, Martin, Stead.

Blackpool: Maxwell; Gabriel, Ekpiteta, Ballard, Garbutt; Hamilton (Mitchell 84), Ward, Dougall, Woodburn (Lubala 60); Anderson (Kemp 80), Madine. Unused substitutes: Sims, Husband, Yates, Turton.

Referee: J Oldham (Derbyshire).