Harrogate Town 0 Salford City 1: 'It's not unlucky', laments Simon Weaver after another costly mistake

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver refused to blame bad luck after yet another defensive error cost his side points.

Saturday, 19th December 2020, 9:42 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th December 2020, 8:16 am
Harrogate Town's Jack Muldoon in action against Salford City. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites suffered their third 1-0 defeat in their last four outings when they entertained Salford City on Saturday afternoon, and were once again the architects of their own downfall.

On this occasion, goalkeeper James Belshaw failed to come off his line and claim a ball over the top, gifting Ammies striker James Wilson an opportunity that he didn’t pass up.

In recent weeks it has been individual errors or lapses in concentration by the players in front of Town’s number one that have led to the ball ending up in the back of their net, and Weaver says he is now at the point of considering personnel changes.

Ed Francis made his full debut for Town.

"It’s been a recurring theme. If you open the door defensively, you get punished," he said.

"We’ve had three games - Forest Green, Morecambe and Salford today - where we’ve really competed well, but we’ve had a blip in each game as well as one at Exeter the other night, and each time you get punished.

“It comes to a point where you have to change the team. We challenge the players to keep working at it in training, we do the video analysis. They have to learn. It’s whether they can learn quickly enough for us so we don’t get entangled in a battle at the bottom of the table.

"We need to do better. You can’t be indecisive at this level because the opposition will take advantage. You look at the quality that Salford have up front, you have to stay switched on.

“It gets to a point where you can’t just say ‘unlucky’. It’s not unlucky."

Of the moment which ultimately decided the contest, Weaver added: “To be fair, Belly has held his hand up immediately and said he should have come off his line.

"It’s bounced well within our area and unfortunately their player has had far too much time to put his finish where he wants.

“But, he [Belshaw] has made an absolutely brilliant save off Hunter and another one-on-one stop. The last couple of weeks he’s been outstanding, but unfortunately today it [the mistake] has cost us.”

With centre-forward Aaron Martin very much to the fore, Town began Saturday's contest brightly, passing and moving the ball nicely on the deck.

Salford, by comparison, looked sluggish and sloppy, but still managed to break the deadlock out of absolutely nowhere in the 17th minute.

Brandon Thomas-Asante clipped a hopeful long pass over the top of the home defence, and with Belshaw surprisingly reluctant to come off his line and deal with the danger, it was all too easy for Wilson to run away from Jake Lawlor and stab the ball into the net.

Harrogate’s best chance of pulling level before the break arrived three minutes later when George Thomson’s left-wing corner broke for Jack Muldoon inside the box, though he sliced his strike high and wide on the half-volley.

Falling behind quietened the home crowd, who had begun the afternoon in good voice, while City looked a far more cohesive outfit in the period that followed them taking the lead.

A Jason Lowe shot from the edge of the box was deflected narrowly wide of Belshaw’s goal, and although Town began to show a few signs of life as the interval approached, Ammies custodian Václav Hladký made it back into the changing rooms without having to make anything resembling a save of note.

The opening 20 minutes of the second period passed without incident until Brendan Kiernan rolled a pass from right to left and found Muldoon, who engineered a decent sight of goal, only to roll a tame finish into the arms of Hladký.

Moments later, the Ammies had a chance to double their tally, but Ash Hunter was thwarted by the feet of Belshaw.

Trailing by a goal on home soil though they were, Harrogate never really managed to build a head of steam and put their visitors under any sustained pressure, though it looked as if they had been presented with an equaliser on 72 minutes.

Hladký spilled Muldoon's low drive at the feet of Martin, however with the home striker poised to pounce, the Czech recovered just in time to grab the loose ball.

Another chance then materialised from a left-wing corner, Kiernan clearing the cross-bar from close range before Belshaw did superbly to keep his team in the contest, producing an excellent one-on-one save after substitute Bruno Andrade broke clear.

Stoppage-time saw Town finally begin to ask a few more questions of the City back-line as Muldoon swiveled on the edge of the box and sent an instinctive snap-shot narrowly the wrong side of the upright with Hladký scrambling.

Then, in the very last seconds of the match, Calvin Miller dug out an inviting centre from the left which Lawlor glanced across the face of goal, and with that went any hopes of Town salvaging a draw.

Defeat leaves Weaver's men 17th in the League Two standings.

Harrogate: Belshaw; Fallowfield, Lawlor, Hall, Burrell; Thomson (Kerry 73), Francis (Miller 85), Kirby; Kiernan, Martin, Muldoon. Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Stead, Lokko.

Salford: Hladky; Clarke, Eastham, Bernard, I.Touray; Lowe, Threlkeld; Thomas-Asante (Andrade 73), Wilson (Dieseruvwe 84), Hunter; Henderson. Unused substitutes: Elliott, Turnbull, Hayes, M.Touray.

Referee: T Kettle (Rutland).