Harrogate Town 0 Wrexham 2: Latest failure against bogey team is just a bump in the road
Wrexham have become something of a bogey team for Harrogate Town.
Since Simon Weaver's men were promoted to the National League, they have faced the Dragons six times and are still to record a win.
In 2018/19, they drew 0-0 at the CNG Stadium before losing 2-1 in North Wales on the final day of the season. Inbetween they played out another stalemate on home turf in the FA Cup, then went on to lose the replay 2-0.
This term, Ryan Fallowfield's late equaliser salvaged a point on the road back in October, but on Saturday Town were beaten 2-0, denting their National League title hopes.
Lovers of statistics might be interested to read that goalkeeper Robert Lainton has now faced Harrogate four times in the last 16 months and has kept four clean-sheets to his name - Weaver's team haven't managed to beat him once.
The one number that really matters from a Town point of view, however, is that which shows them still to be second in the league standings, now four points behind leaders Barrow, but still in the title race.
This weekend's defeat was just their first in seven matches - following on from six consecutive victories - and the first time that they had conceded a goal in almost a month. It also ended an unbeaten home league record that stretched back as far as August.
And it is with these figures in mind that captain Josh Falkingham was able to write his team's latest failure against Wrexham off as a bump in the road.
As disappointing as their second-half performance was, the overall picture is still an extremely healthy one, and the 29-year-old midfielder is adamant that losing one match cannot and will not be allowed to knock them off course.
"We are gonna have bumps, we won't get things all our own way from now until the end of the season," Falkingham reflected.
"There are 14 games to go and we know that there are going to be ups and downs. It won't take much for us to bounce back from this.
"We can't let this result affect us going forwards. The season we've built, we can't just deflate ourselves and let the bubble burst because of one result.
"It could have been a lot worse. They could have come here and dominated from start to finish, we could have been penned in and not had a touch, but I don't think it was like that.
"There's a lot of self-belief and confidence in our changing room and we'll make sure that we make things right and bounce back. We usually have done after a defeat since I've been here."
As far as the overall promotion picture is concerned, defeats for Yeovil and Bromley - the two sides directly below them in the table - plus Barrow's failure to beat Boreham Wood means that Town's loss hasn't proved to be as damaging as it might have been.
They remain second, two points ahead of third-placed Yeovil, and are still only four behind title favourites Barrow, yet, at the full-time whistle, Falkingham was left to rue a missed opportunity.
"It's frustrating because for the two or three years I've been here, there have been a few times where we've lost and the teams around us have seem to have lost as well," he added.
"That has it's positives, but there are negative as well because we should have kicked on and we could have been a point off [top spot] rather than four.
"Give it 48 hours and it'll probably feel like a good thing that everybody else lost, but it makes it [losing to Wrexham] that little bit more frustrating."
Town were much the better side for the majority of the first period of Saturday's contest, starting strongly but then falling behind on 11 minutes when Wrexham's James Jennings became the first player to beat James Belshaw in more than eight hours of football.
It was likely to take something special to find a way past the Harrogate keeper, such has his form been in recent weeks, and this indeed proved to be the case as the Dragons' left-back sent an excellent 25-yard free-kick into the top corner of the home goal.
The hosts responded well to this set-back, Jack Diamond forcing Lainton into a decent stop before Warren Burrell headed Alex Bradley's corner against a post.
Jon Stead then turned cleverly inside the box and drew an even better save out of Lainton as the Town dominance of proceedings continued until the 41st minute.
Having offered almost nothing for nearly half an hour, the visitors came close to extending their lead through JJ Hooper's vicious long-ranger, then Shaun Pearson's header, though on both occasions, Belshaw did superbly to keep the score at 1-0.
If Weaver's men had continued their first-half performance into the second, then an equalising goal and perhaps more would certainly have arrived, but they didn't.
Town failed to ever really get going, while Wrexham played much better and some poor defending on the edge of their own penalty area allowed Hooper time and space to make the points safe in the 73rd minute.
Brendan Kiernan's arrival from the substitutes' bench did result in Harrogate belatedly causing the away side a few problems at the death, but it was too little, too late to make a difference.
"For the first half, there was only one team in it and I don't think they really got anywhere near us," Falkingham added.
"In the changing room at half-time, I honestly believed that we were going to go on and win the game.
"We just never really came out of the traps in the second half, and they slowed it down, it became very scrappy and they were hard to break down.
"Wrexham came happy to get a point but got goals at crucial moments and to be fair to them, they fully deserved it in the end.
"Their second goal absolutely killed the atmosphere and killed any chances of a comeback."