Harrogate Town did 'everything they could' to avoid forfeiting Carabao Cup first round tie with Rochdale AFC

Simon Weaver says that Harrogate Town did everything in their power to try and ensure that their Carabao Cup first round tie with Rochdale could be rearranged in time to avoid the club being kicked out of the competition.

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 8:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 8:24 pm
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Opponents Rochdale have received a bye into round two after Tuesday’s scheduled clash between the two had to be postponed due an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Sulphurites’ camp.

The Football League (EFL) has determined that the Wetherby Road outfit would be unable to fulfil the fixture within the required time period – before August 23, the date which second round ties are scheduled to take place – and forced Town to forfeit the game.

“It’s another blow for us,” boss Weaver told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“I understand the problem with logistics with the next round scheduled to be played from August 23, but a situation where we were forced to forfeit our place in the competition was one that we have worked really, really hard to avoid.

“We proposed that the game be played on the Monday after we return to action against Barrow on August 21. It would mean that we’d have had to play Saturday, Monday, Wednesday,

Saturday that week, but I think it would have been worth it to have at least had an opportunity to progress.

“Rochdale were fine with the idea, but the EFL said ‘no’. It’s really disappointing because we were desperate to play the game. There was no big blow up with the EFL, no fall-out but we stated our case and did absolutely everything we possibly could.”

With five players having contracted the virus and a further five in self-isolation due to having been in close contacted with those affected, Town will now not play again until their League Two fixture against Barrow on August 21.

But Weaver has revealed that the club sounded the EFL out regarding the possibility of bringing in a number of additional players on emergency loan deals in order that they could play Rochdale at an earlier date.

“That was a ‘no’ as well,” he added.

“They said that rule only applies for goalkeepers, which is a shame. If we could have brought a couple in I could have filled the bench with 16-year-olds and we could have played the game.

"We have the contacts and we'd been in touch with clubs who were prepared to help us out with players. It might have meant that we were fielding a weakened side for the game, but at least we'd have been able to play it and therefore been in with a chance of progressing.

"The rules are the rules, I accept that, but these are unprecedented times. With Covid and the problems it's causing, it makes you wonder whether a new rule could be brought in regarding emergency loans for a one-off game if a team has lost a significant number of players to the virus."

The EFL released a statement regarding the situation on Tuesday evening. It explained: 'Rochdale AFC will receive a bye into this season’s round two of the Carabao Cup after it was determined opponents Harrogate Town would be unable to fulfil the round one fixture within the required time period.

'This follows a request to reschedule Harrogate’s next three fixtures after number of positive cases of Covid-19 were identified within the Club, and a number of individuals being unable to play or train due to either a positive test, or the requirement to self-isolate, in line with Government and EFL guidance.

'While Harrogate Town did seek to reschedule the Carabao Cup fixture, the available date proposed would not have provided enough time for logistical arrangements to be made, or tickets to be sold for the Round Two tie and in accordance with Carabao Cup rule 5.1, Harrogate Town will therefore forfeit the tie.'

Town, who have also had to postpone upcoming League Two fixtures against Crawley and Leyton Orient, were only promoted to the EFL last season, thus this year's competition represented only their second-ever chance to participate in the Carabao Cup.

Last term, they beat Tranmere Rovers on penalties following a 1-1 draw at Prenton Park, setting up a second round trip to Premier League West Bromwich Albion.