Harrogate Town 1 Colchester United 0: 'Resilience' key to Sulphurites' transformation into play-off contenders
The Sulphurites were among the bookies’ favourites for the drop at the start of the season, but have been in fine form of late, and climbed into League Two’s last play-off spot on Saturday courtesy of their 1-0 home win over Colchester United.
It looked as if the men from Wetherby Road would have to settle for just a point as the clock ticked past the 90-minute-mark with the game still goalless, however they were not to be denied a seventh victory in 10 matches.
Jack Muldoon popped up in the 92nd-minute to decide matters, and Weaver believes that their ability to ensure they found a way to get over the line in the end owes much to his players’ mindset.
Town were thoroughly second best during the first half, but the Town boss said that a willingness to “dig in” when they were up against it and keep believing meant that they always had a chance of coming through.
“They keep on believing. It is so easy in life, isn’t it, to just think ‘it’s not our day’ even though we were really good in the second half. But you have got to have a stronger mindset to be a winner in the end – and we did.
"The drinks break with I think about four or five minutes left and we said ‘there might be one chance, let’s be right in our minds to take that opportunity and we did. It was a nice scruffy goal to finish the game and it is all about the end result and seeing the job through, so I am immensely proud of this as much as any other win.
"We’ve tried to evolve the football and tried to win by playing entertaining football, which I think is what we are doing now. There were moments today where it wasn’t quite as smooth as we’d have liked, but the lads were still persevering. And as much as the entertainment value, our crowd loves characters out there and that is what we’ve got.
“They never showed signs of disappointment. With confidence and confidence in each other, we have developed a little bit more resilience both with the system and the team ethic and this is a team now that digs in for the badge, and that means a great deal to us.
"If we dig in sufficiently to stay in the game then the talent will rise and, second half, I thought that we were fantastic. We can’t always be two or three up, but it doesn’t really matter if we come out winners in the end.”
Colchester began the day just above the relegation zone, but caused the division’s form team plenty of problems during the opening 45 minutes, smothering them at times as they tried to play out from the back and pass the ball through the thirds.
But Weaker tweaked things slightly at the interval and Town went on to have the better of the second period.
On what he needed to change at the interval, Weaver explained: "They were pressing with great intent, and it is quite tight our pitch when people have that full press on you.
"They were trying to cut the keeper off and you could feel the crowd getting a little bit uptight when we were trying to play out, but we’re committed to that.
"We said at half-time that we need moments where we push one of our deep-lying midfielders a bit higher up so that we can kick over the top and get the second ball, then drag one of their players back so that between Belly [James Belshaw] and the two centre-halves and Dools [Stephen Dooley], we ended up still outnumbering them and playing from the back. The fluidity came from there and the confidence on the deck and we found a way of creating chances.
"We knew that Colchester have a team and a squad, a big squad, full of experienced players, so we knew that it was going to be difficult and that we would have to be patient.
"We didn’t click into gear in the first half, but I wasn’t overly disappointed because I felt that we kept trying to do the right thing. It’s not always going to be fluid. We’re not always going to reach that state of flow throughout the team, but what we didn’t do is concede. We just needed to be better on the ball and probe in different ways, which we did in the second half and it earned us the space to click into gear more frequently.”
Town’s winner arrived after Abraham Odoh and Matty Foulds combined down the left, with the latter pulling a low cross back for Matty Daly, who saw a first-time effort saved unconvincingly by Colchester custodian Owen Goodman.
With the loose ball rolling towards the goal-line, it was Muldoon who reacted quickest to ram it home from less than a yard out, registering his fourth goal in four matches and ninth of the season.
"The player again is on the spot,” Weaver said of his 34-year-old centre-forward.
"He’s taken a physical battering at times today, but he is ripped to shreds, he is dedicated and he is having a dream spell for us,
"So, age isn’t a factor when you are as dedicated as Mullers.”
Saturday’s win lifts Town to seventh place in the League Two standings where they sit a point ahead of AFC Wimbledon and four behind sixth-placed MK Dons.