Harrogate Town 0 Cheltenham Town 1: We must be 'bolder and braver', says Simon Weaver

Simon Weaver says his Harrogate Town players must aspire to be more adventurous in possession if they are to avoid the kind of frustrating defeat they suffered at the hands of Cheltenham Town on Tuesday evening.

Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 9:22 pm
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

William Boyle's 43rd-minute header settled a scrappy affair on a freezing cold evening in North Yorkshire, condemning the Sulphurites to a first loss in three following back-to-back League Two victories.

The Robins were good value for their half-time advantage having created a trio of decent goal-scoring opportunities, while by contrast Town failed to seriously extend visiting goalkeeper Josh Griffiths.

Content to sit back and protect their slender advantage, the second 45 saw the visitors deliver a master-class in game-management, denying their hosts any real opportunities to get back into the contest through a combination of organised, no-nonsense defending and continuous time-wasting.

Simon Power in action during Tuesday's defeat to Cheltenham at Wetherby Road.

And Weaver felt that his team needed to be much braver on the ball in order to open up a resolute Cheltenham back-five.

"There was no space between their five at the back once they went 1-0 up and it was very difficult, but we still didn't split enough at the back when our keeper got it," he said.

"It was lumped down the middle too often and I know that it takes a brave man to want the ball to try and play out from the back on a night like this on a frozen pitch, but we have to aspire to be that team.

"Sometimes it becomes relentless, the direct balls, it becomes a real battle and I don't expect us to play like Manchester City, it's not that, but there are times during passages of play where he have to get on the ball, it's as simple as that.

"It is frustrating. We've got to make sure that we are more creative than that. We didn't manage to get the ball out wide enough in the second half. We dropped off a bit deep and got sucked into a game where it was hard to enact what we wanted to do.

"We haven't embarrassed ourselves, but nor have we covered ourselves in glory. We need to be bolder and braver."

Following an uneventful opening 25 minutes it was Cheltenham who created the first real opening of the evening, Andy Williams turning Warren Burrell and shooting past James Belshaw, only for Jake Lawlor to come to Harrogate's rescue with a goal-line clearance.

Another chance for the visitors to take the lead came and went on 40 minutes when the home centre-halves somehow failed to deal with a straight ball down the middle and Alfie May ran clean through on Belshaw's goal, but blasted the ball over the cross-bar.

But the Robins would eventually force a breakthrough after the hosts failed to clear their lines and substitute Sean Long dinked a cross from the right-hand edge of the six-yard box to the back post where Boyle headed in.

The half ended with Harrogate skipper Josh Falkingham rifling a first-time effort narrowly the wrong side of the upright when a corner was cleared to him just outside the away penalty area.

Weaver's men tried to up the intensity during the early stages of the second period, though they struggled to put their visitors under any kind of pressure.

With Cheltenham breaking up the flow of the game to good effect and time-wasting wherever possible, the hosts never really managed to generate anything resembling any momentum, with genuine opportunities to get themselves back in the game almost non-existent.

Aaron Martin stretched to meet a left-wing cross from Ed Francis on 58 minutes, though his tame downwards header could have been gathered by the under-worked Griffiths in his sleep.

With five minutes remaining, George Thomson's inviting free-kick from slightly right of centre was nodded wide by a Harrogate head at the back post, but that was as close as the Sulphurites would come.

Harrogate Town: Belshaw; Burrell (Fallowfield 74), Lawlor (Andrews 89), Hall, Francis; Power, Thomson, Falkingham, McPake (Muldoon 74); Martin, March. Unused substitutes: Minter, Kiernan, Kerry.

Cheltenham: Griffiths; Raglan, Tozer, Boyle; Blair, Azaz (Sercombe 80), Clements (Long 30), Thomas, Hussey; May (Vassilev 80), Williams. Unused substitutes: Harris, Bowry, Addai, Wright.

Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).