Harrogate Town must start valuing clean-sheets, insists Simon Weaver

Simon Weaver urged his Harrogate Town players to place a greater value on keeping clean-sheets in the wake of Saturday's disappointing home defeat to Salford City.

Sunday, 21st November 2021, 7:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 21st November 2021, 7:22 pm
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites have managed just two shut-outs in 17 League Two outings this term, while their defensive record is the second-worst of the sides in the top half of the table.

Although they continue to occupy a play-off spot despite having lost three of their last four and won just once in six attempts in the league, their current position owes much to the potency of their attacking play.

Only Leyton Orient (31) have scored more than Town (30), however Weaver has warned that it is not realistic to keep expecting his forward-line to bail out his leaky defence.

Harrogate Town's Alex Pattison on the run during Saturday's League Two defeat to Salford City at Wetherby Road.

"There wasn't the killer edge in their box today," he said, reflecting on a 2-0 loss at Wetherby Road.

"But, I think our forwards are due the other lads keeping a clean-sheet because we're not always going to bang two or three in every game.

"We have to be better defensively, we know that. We keep on repeating it, we are honest with the players, we have to defend better, we have to keep it solid.

"We have to be overjoyed to get a clean-sheet and focus on that and the fact that [keeping one] can be a real buzz for us. There's only been two buzzes in that regard so far and two's not enough."

Salford edged ahead after 37 minutes of Saturday's contest when Ibou Touray's inviting cross from the left flank found Matty Lund, who couldn't miss from just a couple of yards out.

Jason Lowe was then afforded time and space to wrap things up 16 minutes from time, drilling a deflected effort beyond Mark Oxley at his near post.

Thus, Weaver will once again have to spend his Monday morning showing Town's defenders video clips of where they went wrong at the weekend as he seeks to remedy their failings in and around their own penalty area.

"The defending was poor. There wasn't enough intensity and we'll have a look at that on the video because sometimes players have to be embarrassed into realising," he added.

"They need to see that 'that was me, I didn't put the opponent's head down, there wasn't enough urgency'. There wasn't enough urgency at the far post for Salford's first goal. We need to put it right.

"Simon [Power] gets blocked off so he couldn't go out and stop the cross, or even try and stop it, but we had to defend it better at the far post.

"The second one, it's hard for me to see a deflection from where I was. If there was, that's unfortunate, but it seemed to me that there was too much time for their players on the ball in the lead up to the shot.

"You have to give credit to Salford because they've put bodies on the line whereas we have conceded two sloppy goals."

Asked immediately after Saturday's game whether he expected goalkeeper Oxley to have come off his line and dealt with the cross which led to City breaking the deadlock, Weaver said he would have to reserve judgement until he has had chance to analyse replays of the incident.

"It's an away-swinging ball with pace. I'd have to look at it again before I criticise him [Oxley]," the Harrogate chief said.

"He has been outstanding so far this season, I think there's only one goal so far this season that he could have done better with, so I wouldn't like to jump on that straight away."

Saturday's defeat sees Town drop from fifth place down to seventh in the League Two standings.

Harrogate Town: Oxley; Sheron, Burrell, Hall, Page (Fallowfield 60); Power (Thomson 53), Falkingham, Pattison, Diamond; Armstrong, Orsi (Muldoon 53). Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Kerry, Ilesanmi.

Salford City: Ripley; Shephard, Eastham, Turnbull, Touray; Lund (Vassell 90+1), Lowe; Wright (Hunter 71), Morris (Oteh 80), Love; Asante. Unused substitutes: Jeacock, Smith, N’Mai, Dackers.

Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey).