Harrogate Town thump Brackley Town by five in Conference North
James Walshaw clinched the match ball with a first-hall hat-trick and he was brilliantly aided by Craig Nelthorpe’s two wonderstrikes.
The Southern visitors were blown away by a much-improved performance from Simon Weaver’s men, who had previously gone three matches without scoring.
The damage was done in the first half, with four goals raising the mood at the CNG Stadium.
Chorley, Gainsborough Trinity and Worcester City had all stopped Town scoring in the game’s prior, but within six minutes Walshaw had put an end to the goalless run.
It came from Lloyd Kerry’s sweetly taken free-kick from 30 yards which struck the underside of the bar and bounced back into the area. Walshaw rose highest to head home.
Brackley had started positively despite having only scored eight goals in the Conference North this season and striker Greg Pearson kicked fresh air when six yards out moments before Walshaw’s opener.
Kerry, playing on the right of Town’s midfield, continued to look dangerous and sent two shots wide.
The playmaker was involved in Town’s second too. He drilled a daisy-cutting pass from right to left, and Craig Nelthorpe found space to lash brilliantly into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
It wasn’t long before Town added another. Nicky Featherstone was alive to Kerry’s short corner and, as Brackley’s defence switched off, he dribbled into the area and crossed for Walshaw to divert in.
Such were their troubles, Brackley manager Jon Brady hauled Pearson and fellow forward Eric Odhiambo off in a double change at the half-hour mark.
But the replacements didn’t have the desired effect.
Walshaw, who had showed several signs of a burgeoning partnership with Jake Speight, pressured Brackley keeper Billy Turley on Chris Carruthers’ poor back-pass. And when Turley smacked his clearance onto striker’s backside, the ball looped up kindly for him to turn home for his third.
It was an almost the perfect half for Town, until centre-back Dave McGurk was forced off following a collision with Shaun Jeffers, the latter also exiting play as Brackley used their final substitution.
The second half never really lived up to the first but Town were able to make one addition to the scoresheet.
Soft goals have clouded Town’s season so far, and Carruthers almost put the visitors on track for a second-half comeback in the 47th minute but he steered wide from a corner.
Shane Killock then missed the ball from another Kerry set-piece when positioned in front of Turley. The goalkeeper gave the visitors a scare when he went down clutching his shoulder on 50 minutes before resuming between the sticks.
Town’s keeper Phil Barnes was rarely called upon but he was alive to the danger when he swallowed up another Brackley break at the feet of Ryan Rowe.
Immediately after, Walshaw missed a good opportunity to add to his tally as he lifted a chance wide. But the lead was extended with less than ten minutes left thanks to Nelthorpe’s excellent second.
The wideman picked the ball up on the right flank, cut inside and unleashed a dipping strike into the top corner before racing the width of the field to slide across the turf.
It was a humdinger of a strike to settle any game, not least, a performance so emphatic.
TOWN: Phil Barnes, Matt Bloomer, Rhys Meynell, Nicky Featherstone, Shane Killock, David McGurk, Lloyd Kerry, Simon Lenighan, Jake Speight, James Walshaw, Craig Nelthorpe.
Subs: Dome Rowe, Adam Nowakowski, Alex Metcalfe
Subs not used: Peter Crook, Ryan Kendall