Harrogate Town are 'naive' but not devoid of character, insists Simon Weaver after Colchester United loss

Simon Weaver branded his Harrogate Town side “naive” after they conspired to lose a game they really ought to have won against Colchester United.

By Rhys Howell
Monday, 4th April 2022, 7:02 am
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 7:02 am
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver, left, and his assistant, Paul Thirlwell, watch on from the sidelines during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Colchester United. Pictures: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver, left, and his assistant, Paul Thirlwell, watch on from the sidelines during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Colchester United. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

Impressive for 20 minutes of Saturday’s contest and deservedly ahead through Jack Muldoon’s early strike, the Sulphurites’ leaky defence was breached twice before half-time by opponents who offered very little as attacking force all afternoon.

Trailing 2-1, the Wetherby Road outfit continued to dominate possession after the interval, though lacked sufficient quality in the final third to get themselves back into the match as they slipped to a fifth defeat in seven League Two matches.

“At the end of the season, we can look at the facts, look at the stats and they don’t lie. We rarely get completely dominated, but we can be in charge of games and lose them because we are not thinking ‘what if?’,” Weaver said.

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The inquest begins after Colchester United net a 21st-minute equaliser from their first attack of any note.

“We lack leadership in some places and that ‘what if’ mentality when it comes to reading danger. We need a bit more know-how and quality. I don’t think anyone could really argue with that.

"The legs and energy and honesty for the most part can’t be questioned, but we could be described as a naive team.

“It was disappointing to see us taking ages over everything, whether it was a goal-kick or a throw-in. We got sucked into their game-plan, which is always to slow it down. That’s their way of playing, not ours, so I didn’t half bring that up at half-time with a lot of fire in my belly.

“We like to keep it positive and be nice about things but we have got to call it as it is, the naivety is costing us and I’m glad we are 13 points above the bottom-two.”

Colchester barely got a kick of the ball during the opening exchanges and struggled to live with their hosts, such was the intensity of Town's fluent passing football prior to Freddie Sears' 21st-minute equaliser.

But conceding that goal out of absolutely nowhere from the visitors' first attack of any real note visibly knocked the stuffing out of Weaver's men, who then gave up a second to Noah Chilvers shortly before half-time.

Heads certainly dropped after both set-backs but although he wasn't happy with his players' reaction to conceding, Harrogate's manager stopped short of questioning their character.

“I think this is a good group of lads who felt like they’d taken another punch in the stomach when Colchester equalised - and that’s because of the defence, to be honest," he added.

“We didn’t react well from that and you have to react better. It’s partly disappointment at conceding a goal and thinking ‘here we go again’, but players have to take some responsibility. I’ll beat myself up massively over this defeat, but at the end of the day, we suffered passengers once they equalised.

“I wouldn’t go to the extreme of saying there’s no character at all in a team that’s always had character because there is too much jumping around there.

"It did get a bit desperate, then we were giving the ball away and that’s the desperation and frustration that can creep in at any level of football. We’ve got to stay composed, but we probably lack that experience in the line-up.

“I think we lack a Paul Thirlwell, an Alan White, an Adam Bolder in the line-up at the moment, a player with the experience and know-how to get us through these periods in games because honesty and energy isn’t always enough."

Asked what he can do about his team's habit of giving up cheap goals and throwing away points and that lack of experience in his line-up, Weaver replied: “I can’t put 200 or 300 EFL games into each of the players between now and the end of the season.

"But, I can change it in the summer, which we will and have to, to mature the team. We’ve got to evolve."

Satruday's defeat keeps Town 16th in the League Two standings with six matches left to play this season.