Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver left frustrated by 'canny' Cheltenham Town's tactical masterclass
"Fair play to them" was Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver's reaction to Tuesday's 1-0 home defeat to Cheltenham as he conceded that the Robins "deservedly" left with all three points.
Michael Duff's title-chasers created the game's three clearest openings and barely gave their hosts a look in at the other end either before or after they took a 43rd-minute lead through William Boyle's close-range header.
And, although Weaver was admitted that he was left frustrated by the job the visitors did on his side on a freezing cold evening, he was full of praise for the way they carried out their game-plan.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game, Cheltenham are a good, experienced team who got into the League Two play-offs last year," he said.
"They've got height and strength. They've got a game-plan where they get men behind the ball, they stick it in behind your back-line and chase everything, play for corners, throw-ins and free-kicks and they're canny. They ran the clock down, it was a master-class in that tonight.
"It was never going to be pretty. You get hard, physical games against Cheltenham and the ball can be up in the air a lot. When you concede a goal, they are good at dropping back into their five at the back and making it hard.
"They are a tough nut to crack, and fair play to them for that. I'm not being critical of their style, it's just difficult once you go behind on a night like this where it's a bit frosty and it's hard to get the ball down and play, but we've got to be better."
On a night where Town failed to force visiting goalkeeper Josh Griffiths into making a single save of any note, they needed to be rock solid at the back if they were going to come away with a share of the spoils.
And although they competed very well and kept things pretty tight for the majority of the contest, a sloppy spell during the latter stages of the first period ultimately proved to be their undoing.
"It was a real war of attrition and I think the game was always going to be won by the team who kept concentration defensively throughout," Weaver added.
"Unfortunately we were the other team in the battle. We had a five-minute blip in the first half, five minutes of not clearing our lines and of switching off.
"There were opportunities for Cheltenham to score more goals and they didn't make any such errors at the back. They deservedly won the game because of their defensive organisation and concentration.
"It was a narrow game and you've got to take your chances when they come your way, but unfortunately we didn't and it's been a frustrating night overall."
Cheltenham did an excellent job of ensuring that Town were never able to build any kind of momentum in their quest to get back into the contest after half-time, managing the game in effective fashion.
One noticeable tactic the Robins employed was continuous time-wasting, something that referee Graham Salisbury seemed to have no issue with.
Asked if he felt the match official could have done more to hurry the visitors along, Weaver replied: "I think so, you want them to act with the authority that they show before a game.
"I just think that maybe he could have nipped it in the bud, it was taking ages for the guy to walk across to take the throw-ins, then his hand is up in the air, then there's a delay and it's frustrating.
"Just have a word with the throw-in taker just to show that he's on it, but there's a sense of frustration when he's smiling about it and he's centre stage."
Defeat sees Harrogate drop one place to 15th in the League Two standings ahead of Saturday's home showdown with Leyton Orient.