Harrogate Town 0 Exeter City 0: Simon Weaver hails 'courageous' display
Simon Weaver praised his Harrogate Town players for their courage after they survived the second-half dismissal of Warren Burrell to hold promotion-chasing Exeter City to a goalless draw at Wetherby Road.
Tuesday night's League Two contest was very much in the balance when the Sulphurites' left-back was sent off on 72 minutes, though the hosts dug deep in the closing stages to ensure that they finished up with a share of the spoils.
And, given that the Grecians - who were play-off finalists last term - have scored more goals than any other side in the division this season, Weaver was understandably thrilled that his side ended up with a clean-sheet, in spite of their numerical disadvantage.
"In terms of the whole effort by the team, I thought that we were very courageous," the Town boss reflected.
"We were put in a difficult position going down to 10 men - and against Exeter, who are one of the most creative and best teams going forward in this division. I thought we nullified them and they had very few opportunities.
"I thought we defended well. We caused our own problems first half by maybe being over-confident at the back, without them really showing a lot of evidence of cutting through us.
"We said at half-time it's that type of night where we've got to nail the basics and at home sometimes we've got to take a point, it's not all or nothing.
"We showed maturity tonight, we were less reckless under the strain of going down to 10 men. I thought the effort was great and collective spirit was there for everyone to see.
"We had our moments and they [Exeter] will know that they've been in a battle. All-in-all it's a really good re-start to the season for us after this break."
The night's first incident of note saw Harrogate midfielder George Thomson sting the palms of visiting custodian Jonny Maxted with a 10th-minute strike from distance, before Exeter began to find their rhythm and ask a few questions of the home defence.
Ryan Bowman glanced a header wide from Jake Caprice's right-wing centre, while at the other end, Burrell got forward from left-back to force Maxted into a decent stop at his near post.
A horrible mistake by Town’s Jay Williams, followed by another by the covering Connor Hall, then gifted Josh Key a clear sight of goal, though the Grecians winger dragged wide of the mark.
Three minutes before the break, the hosts' best chance of the half came and went after a swift counter-attack ended with Jack Muldoon scuffing his finish from Josh Falkingham's inviting low cross.
Exeter began the second period in the ascendancy, though following a spell very much on the back foot, Town almost broke the deadlock after 62 minutes as Martin's strike on the turn drew a superb save out of a stretching Maxted.
Disaster would however strike for Weaver's men 10 minutes later when, for the second successive game they had a man sent-off. Burrell was the guilty man on this occasion, senselessly diving into a challenge on the edge of his own box shortly after receiving his first caution.
Yet, despite dominating the ball for the remainder of the contest, a determined rearguard action ensured that the Grecians never really fashioned a clear opening, and will certainly have been left the unhappier of the teams at the final whistle.
The result means that Town stay 18th in the League Two standings, but moves them five points clear of the relegation zone.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw; Williams (Fallowfield 76), Lawlor, Hall, Burrell; Thomson, Falkingham, Francis, Kiernan (Kirby 79); Muldoon (March 83), Martin. Unused substitutes: Hondermarck, Minter, McPake.
Exeter City: Maxted; Caprice, Sweeney, Parkes, Page (Hartridge 82); Atangana (Law 82); Key (Sparkes 63), Jay, Collins, Randall (Seymour 86); Bowman. Unused substitutes: Ward, McArdle, Kite.
Referee: T Brammall (Sheffield).