Harrogate Town 1 Newport County 4: Simon Weaver regrets making changes to starting line-up

Simon Weaver shouldered responsibility for Harrogate Town’s woeful showing during their 4-1 home defeat to Newport County, insisting that he should not have made changes to his starting line-up.
Josh March takes aim at goal during Harrogate Town's 4-1 home defeat to Newport County. Picture: Matt KirkhamJosh March takes aim at goal during Harrogate Town's 4-1 home defeat to Newport County. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Josh March takes aim at goal during Harrogate Town's 4-1 home defeat to Newport County. Picture: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites were second best all over the pitch on Tuesday, conceding twice in each half before substitute George Thomson bagged a late consolation.

Midfielder Thomson was one of three players of the settled side that took Town into the play-off places earlier this month to be rested against the Exiles as Weaver attempted to freshen things up following Saturday’s laboured showing against Walsall.

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Central midfielder Stephen Dooley and striker Jack Muldoon were the other two men rotated out of the starting line-up, with club captain Josh Falkingham, Jeremy Sivi and Josh March handed the opportunity to stake their claims. Veteran defender Warren Burrell also came in as a matter of necessity, taking the place of the injured Matty Foulds at left-back.

But that injection of freshness did nothing to boost a Harrogate team that looks to be on the slide and has now lost three of its last four matches, winning just one of the previous six.

And Weaver was quick to point the finger at himself after the full-time whistle.

“It’s a disappointing evening, I’m really deflated after that,” he said.

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“I just didn't think we showed enough oomph, or fire in the belly to really start the game, start the game in their half, and earn the right.

"But listen, I should take the blame because I changed the team. I thought that lads needed a bit of a breather, as they’ve been playing minute after minute after minute and showing signs in the last four games of tiring.

"Let's hope the positive is that they've had half a game's break as they'll be coming back in. The overall team, whether the existing lads didn't let those lads settle in or it’s because of nerves, but it's their opportunity. You try and protect people as much as you want, but it wasn't working.

"I didn't change the shape. I wanted to make sure that everybody had an opportunity to play in the same shape as what we always do. But it looked like a team full of strangers, to be honest.”

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Tuesday’s loss was Town’s second at home in the space of just four days, but left Weaver feeling far worse than he did after his side were turned over by Walsall at the weekend.

"I thought it was a good performance on Saturday, but obviously we didn't show that ruthless edge,” he added.

"But it was a continuation of good performances as the home ground. We've been playing good football, but tonight there were very few moments where I was like ‘Oh, yeah, that's us.’

"There were a few moments later on in the game, but the game's lost by then. I didn't think we'd regress into this tonight.”

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Newport struck twice before the break through Will Evans’ penalty and Offrande Zanzala, who then registered again early in the second half, with Set Palmer-Houlden then adding number four.

On what the Exiles did so well on the night, Weaver continued: “They are a team that switched on to maybe an Achilles heel of ours.

"If teams play two up front, with our full-backs just going forward, leaving it two-versus-two, we're open to the counter-attack.

"But, we've discussed all this on the training pitch and at the hotel before the game where we met and identified it and said ‘they'll look to do this’.”

Defeat sees Harrogate drop to 12th place in the League Two standings, though they remain just three points outside the division’s final play-off spot.