Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver says players demonstrated their Football League credentials in Portsmouth clash
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver feels his players demonstrated their Football League credentials during Monday night's FA Cup showdown with Portsmouth.
The Wetherby Road outfit have made no secret of their ambition to achieve promotion from English football's fifth tier since their arrival in the National League less than two years ago.
And although they were beaten 2-1 by League One Pompey, Town more than matched their visitors, who currently sit 40 places above them in the national pyramid.
"Overall, there was very little in it and I think we can be proud of that. Tonight just showed what a good team we are," said Weaver after watching his side push the 2008 winners of the FA Cup all the way in front of live BT Sport cameras.
"I've learned that we can step up and that gives me great belief that we can keep getting better. We've played against players with Championship pedigree.
"People have to think quicker, make better decisions and quicker decisions the higher up you go and we did. Some of our players were really relishing that.
"I said at half-time 'it's game on, there's nothing to fear.' I told them to get in their faces again with that high-intensity style and that we'd be in this game until the final minutes if we apply ourselves, and we were.
"It's exciting. A full stadium, packed full with over 3,000 people and to get in the Football League we have to aim for that, visualise that and keep working at it on and off the pitch."
It is, of course, not unusual for underdogs to raise their game in big matches against much-fancied opposition, however Weaver is confident that what he saw from his players on Monday evening was much more than that.
"It's not just about a one-off game, it's about consistency, but they [Portsmouth] will have a very competitive budget at League One level and the majority of our players who started were recruited from Conference North," he added.
"Our players have stepped up and nailed that level to get to the next level. We've done well so far in 18 months in the National League so why can't so many of our players think 'hang on, we can do it and we can do it here, we can go up and do well'.
"They've got to demand that from each other and we've got to keep on at them because we know that they can reach higher levels.
"I think that we've got to keep aspiring for more because these players are the right age to grow again."
While there were strong performances across the board, particularly during the first half, Town's goalscorer Mark Beck and captain Josh Falkingham really stood out on the night and Weaver reserved special praise for the duo.
"I thought that they were nailed on for looking League One players, so there's no reason why they can't grab each and every game from now until the end of the season in the National League and try and drag us over the line in a very competitive division," he said.
"I thought that others really grew into it as well. I thought we were shifting the ball around nicely at times, particularly during the first half and we had them on the ropes, it was just unfortunate that they scored so soon after us because the game didn't really settle then but credit to the players because every reaction was a positive one and that's what we set out to do.
"I am so proud."