Harrogate Town 3 Accrington Stanley 5: Much-changed Sulphurites fail to deliver in EFL Trophy tie
The Sulphurites boss made 10 changes to his starting line-up for Tuesday night’s Group C clash at Wetherby Road, giving the opportunity for a host of players who have been on the fringes of his squad to stake their claim for more regular football.
But Town went into the interval 3-1 down, then saw their defence breached again early in the second half before getting themselves back into the contest at 4-3, only to concede a late fifth.
Thus, Weaver was left frustrated by the displays of many of those whom he gave a chance to, a collective lack of intensity, and by the defensive sloppiness which gifted League Two rivals Accrington so many “soft” goals.
"It was a disappointing night because we’ve conceded five goals at home when we’ve talked about our pride at running a tighter ship defensively this year,” the Harrogate chief reflected.
“It was like going back several months in terms of looking so porous in defence. We’ve been so solid recently and played with the same game-plan from the start, but the players didn’t look like they understood it.
"The goals were soft, and it’s worrying. We looked soft, we were on our backsides a lot when we were defending, we were outmuscled and there was a distinct lack of bite.
"We were so passive out of possession, dropped off too deep into our own half and there was a lack of communication. There were some senior players out there and we expected to hear them and for them to dictate to others who haven’t played games or have a lack of experience.
"We did make changes, but they are all paid players who are on our first-team staff, so we expected a lot more."
Sam Folarin netted Town’s first of the night from a right-wing Toby Sims cross, making it 2-1 on 35 minutes after Lewis Trickett and Korede Adedoyin had put Accrington in control.
Adedoyin was able to complete his hat-trick with goals either side of the interval before Joe Mattock pulled one back when he curled in a low free-kick right on the edge of the Stanley box.
Folarin then produced another clinical first-time finish to convert a Matty Foulds centre from the left, getting the hosts right back in the game at 4-3 with 76 minutes on the clock.
But, with Harrogate pushing hard for an equaliser, they were caught on the counter-attack from an 89th-minute corner and Trickett put the result beyond any doubt.
And although pleased to see his team compete better after half-time, Weaver said he wouldn’t be getting too carried away with that improved showing.
"Obviously I appreciate that the energy went up, but I’m not going to slap everyone on the back and say ‘fantastic’ because they were running around for us,” he added.
"That’s a prerequisite at this club and we certainly won’t survive with what we’ve got if we don’t bring that. But it just goes to show, that even if your quality is down, if your work-rate is second to none, then you’re in contention in games in League Two.
"This was a League Two side we were up against and we rattled them second half because of our work out of possession.”
One positive that Weaver was able to take out of Tuesday’s defeat was the performance of youngster Finn O’Boyle, who was introduced as a 71st-minute substitute.
The attacking midfielder, who is a product of Town’s academy, slotted in seamlessly despite his lack of previous exposure to first-team football and looked right at home.
"You’ve got to try and be rational with the overall picture and I’ll go home disappointed, but I thought Finn was a big plus.
"He looked like he belonged. He wanted the ball, he was comfortable in possession, not scared of it, not jumpy and showed a turn of pace and some trickery, which is delightful to see.”