Harrogate Town players embrace contrasting challenges during early pre-season outings
Harrogate Town captain Josh Falkingham says he and his team-mates have benefited from two very different challenges during their opening couple of pre-season fixtures.
The League Two Sulphurites tackled Championship Huddersfield Town on Saturday before visiting Brighouse Town of Northern Premier League Division One in midweek.
Given that there is a six-tier gap between the two clubs, the two matches quite naturally saw Simon Weaver s men tested in contrasting ways, but Falkingham believes that the Harrogate players took plenty from both experiences.
"Obviously we've played two very different teams in terms of where they are in the pyramid, but both games were good work-outs," the 30-year-old midfielder said.
"Playing a Championship side in Huddersfield on a really good pitch was always going to be a challenge. They fielded two strong XIs, and in terms of the fitness and the technical aspect it wasn't easy. That said, apart from the first 10 or 15 minutes, I thought we played well and were competitive. We created plenty of opportunities to score goals.
"Brighouse away is a completely different kind of test. The pitch doesn't make it easy for you, it's difficult to play the kind of football we like to play on that kind of surface and obviously all of their lads were really up for it.
"Mentally, you have to make sure you are right on it in that kind of fixture. You have to be prepared to mix it and it's good to have that kind of test because there will be plenty of occasions where you need to go away from home and find a way to come through a difficult game."
Town lost out 1-0 at Huddersfield before beating Brighouse by the same scoreline, and although results count for nothing in pre-season, Falkingham is keen for his team-mates to develop a winning habit as soon as possible.
"Huddersfield had been back in since June 20 and there was a lot of experience and pedigree in their two sides on Saturday, but despite this, we are still disappointed to have come away with a loss," he added.
"Results don't count for anything during pre-season, but my competitive side takes over as soon as we're back out on the pitch and I want to be winning games.
"For me, it's important to be developing that winning mentality and getting into the habit of winning games of football. It's all about building towards our first game of the season against Rochdale and making sure that we are in the best possible shape going into that fixture."
Town’s opening two friendlies of the summer saw recent signings Mark Oxley, Rory McArdle, Alex Pattison and Danilo Orsi handed debuts for their new team and Falkingham says the early signs suggest that manager boss Weaver has done good business.
"It's still early days but the new lads have all shown little glimpses of quality when we've had the balls out in training and during these first couple of friendlies," the former Leeds United midfielder said.
"What I've seen tells me that these boys are going to be great additions. They're all good lads and have settled in brilliantly.
"There's a lot of us here who have been at the club a while, and it's never easy coming into a new dressing room, however we pride ourselves on always doing everything that we can to make boys feel welcome."
Falkingham and his Town team-mates return to action on Sunday afternoon when they entertain Premier League Newcastle United at the EnviroVent Stadium, 2pm kick-off.