Harrogate Town 5 Gillingham FC 1: 'Magnificent' Sulphurites thrash play-off rivals

Simon Weaver labelled Harrogate Town’s second-half performance during their 5-1 thrashing of play-off rivals Gillingham as “magnificent”.
Harrogate Town players celebrate during Easter Monday's 5-1 home success over Gillingham. Pictures: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town players celebrate during Easter Monday's 5-1 home success over Gillingham. Pictures: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town players celebrate during Easter Monday's 5-1 home success over Gillingham. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

Trailing at half-time, the Sulphurites netted five times after the break to earn themselves a stunning Easter Monday victory which keeps them very much in the hunt for a top-seven finish.

Anthony O’Connor headed the hosts level on the hour-mark before Matty Daly’s quick-fire double put them in control by the 70th minute.

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Substitutes Jack Muldoon and Abraham Odoh then rifled home eye-catching strikes in stoppage-time to put a gloss on the score-line.

Sulphurites boss Simon Weaver hailed his players' second-half performance as 'magnificent'.Sulphurites boss Simon Weaver hailed his players' second-half performance as 'magnificent'.
Sulphurites boss Simon Weaver hailed his players' second-half performance as 'magnificent'.

Yet, although thrilled at how his side finished the game, Weaver admitted that Town did not have things all their own way prior to O’Connor’s equaliser.

"I'm really proud of the performance, it was a magnificent second half,” he reflected.

"I’m really pleased with the second half and the result, of course, at such an important stage of the season. But, the first half was quite a struggle.

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"But, quite often it can be in League Two, and we were saying that at half-time. We all get disappointed, frustrated to concede – it was a disappointing goal to concede, however we were still in the game, weren't we?

"We were still in the fight at 1-0, and we knew that we could perform better. We stepped it up a little bit, and I thought we started right from the off in the second half, won the physical exchanges and duels.

"And you have to do that to be able to earn the right to then flow. And goals do give you that confidence, and in the end it was a great outcome. But it was quite a battle for the first 60 minutes, and you never really truly relax until you have got those goals in the bank.”

Gillingham midfielder George Lapslie broke the deadlock four minutes before half-time, stooping to nod into an empty net after Harrogate goalkeeper James Belshaw had tipped his initial header onto the cross-bar.

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But Town drew level with an hour gone, O’Connor climbing highest at the far post to head in George Thomson’s inviting left-wing cross.

The hosts then turned the game on its head in the 68th minute, Daly placing a precise finish into the bottom corner from 20 yards out after Thomson had intercepted a loose pass out of defence.

Less than two minutes later, Harrogate were in full control as Daly helped the ball over the goal-line from two yards out when Josh March’s effort from a tight angle deflected into his path.

The hosts managed the remainder of normal time well, and never really looked in any real danger of conceding a goal which could have set up a nervy finale, before going on to add to their tally in the 93rd and 95th minutes.

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First, Muldoon lashed home a superb first-time effort from the edge of the box having been played in behind the Gills’ defence by March’s clever flick.

Then, Odoh drove with purpose down the left, cutting inside a couple of defenders and onto his right foot before blasting an unstoppable finish across Morris.

On what he said to his charges at half-time to inspire such a markedly different second-half display, Weaver explained: “Obviously there's an urgency to get it right, but you don't want to accentuate that as a manager and make people anxious.

"So you try to stay calm at half-time, because there's so much that can happen in a football game in a short period of time, and we have proven that today.

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"It was important to just stay in it, stay in it, stay in it, don't get consumed by disappointment, because there will be opportunities that open up, so it was just about them [the players] backing themselves.

“Second half, we got some positive passes in, maybe Gillingham got a bit protective, psychologically, protecting that lead, and then more gaps emerged.

"But, it is all well and good passing, you’ve got to have the finishing and we had some great finishes today and it’s good news for everybody.”

Monday’s victory lifts Town up to 12th position in the League Two standings, where they now sit just four points shy of the division’s last play-off spot.