Harrogate Town beat Stockport County
After a five-star attacking performance last time out against Brackley, Harrogate Town had to rely on a huge defensive effort and the magnificent Phil Barnes in goal to secure three points against a well-drilled Stockport County outfit.
The victory – sealed with goals from James Walshaw and Lloyd Kerry – provided three valuable points for the club as they look to get their Vanarama Conference North campaign back on track, not to mention getting a measure of revenge on the County side that dumped them out of the FA Cup.
The CNG Stadium welcomed a bumper crowd of 927, with a large proportion of those in attendance making the cross-Pennine trip from Stockport. And it was those wearing blue who were creating the atmosphere as the Hatters started on the front foot.
Less than five minutes in, those of a pessimistic disposition already feared the worst. The visitors piled forwards in number and Harrogate’s midfield three looked unable to cope with those in white. Lee Stevenson hit the crossbar with a deflected shot and moments later Scott Spencer’s speculative ball caused Town a manner of problems before David McGurk eventually cleared to safety.
But once the Town back-line became accustomed to the onslaught they managed to subdue their opponents and venture forward.
With the new stand open for business for the first time Harrogate slowly began to press forward, eventually fashioning their best chance of the game thus far when McGurk headed over from a corner.
As the half wore on Jake Speight became Town’s main creative outlet down the right and his fine work was rewarded when he delightfully picked out Walshaw at the back post. The striker, signed from Altincham in the summer, swept home his eighth goal of an already prolific season.
Stockport had to switch goalkeepers on the half-hour mark and the first thing that the substitute Ian Ormson should have done was pick the ball out of his net – but both Speight and Walshaw went for the same ball and both, predictably, missed it, giving Ormson a comfortable entry to the game.
Alan Lord clearly laid down the law during the interval as Stockport started the second-half brightly. But Simon Weaver had clearly adopted the opposite approach and once again a measure Town saw them stave off a few County attacks before launching up the pitch to double their lead through Kerry’s header.
But as the natural light waned and the clock wound down Harrogate took their foot of the gas and began to become a little too complacent. Adam Nowakowski’s brave block should have served as a warning sign, but it didn’t and Stockport piled forward in more numbers.
Sensing that they could rescue a point the County players pushed forwards leaving Barnes to repel attacks almost single-handedly. The 35-year-old stopper pulled off a fantastic save to deny both Kristian Dennis and Scott Spencer, but the long-time Blackpool number one was finally beaten with five minutes left to play.
Barnes was once again called into action again and Shane Killock was brought on as Weaver changed the formation to a 5-4-1 to shore things up and secure the three points.
The win moves Town up the table to 13th, four points away Yorkshire rivals Guiseley and six points behind the play-offs.
“We know one swallow doesn’t make a summer,” Weaver said last week. After back-to-back victories against varying levels of opposition, there’s hope that Harrogate will be experiencing an Indian summer ahead of a crucial festive fixture list.