Harrogate Town v Notts County: Reaction to FA Trophy semi-final draw

A life-long Notts County fan and former youth team player, Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw was hoping for a Wembley showdown with his old club.
Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Picture: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Monday's FA Trophy semi-final draw has however pitted the National League rivals against one another at the last-four stage of the competition.

Belshaw and his Town team-mates will entertain the Magpies in the tie's first leg on Saturday March 21, before travelling to Meadow Lane seven days later for the second, with the prize for the victor a trip to the home of football.

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Facing County was certainly the most difficult draw that Harrogate could have been presented with, though it is one that the club should relish, according to their number one.

"I think it's a great draw. If you want to win the Trophy then you've got to beat the best sides along the way," Belshaw said.

"No disrespect to the other teams left in the competition, but I think the general feeling among the squad is that we would rather have avoided Notts in the semi-finals, however they'll be two big games and matches that we're looking forward to.

"From a personal point of view, a fixture against Notts County is special because I've been a fan all my life, though it would have been even better if it was happening at Wembley.

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"My dad is a season ticket-holder at Notts, so whatever happens in the semi-final, at least he'll be getting a day out at Wembley regardless."

Belshaw is yet to feature in Town's Trophy run thus far, Joe Cracknell having deputised between the sticks during victories over Hartlepool United, Darlington, Eastleigh and AFC Fylde.

Simon Weaver has used the competition as an opportunity to rotate his squad and give game-time to those who have found themselves on the fringes of his playing group this term.

Whether the Town boss will continue to rest certain individuals during the latter stages remains to be seen, but Belshaw is confident that Town have enough quality within their number to go on and lift the trophy, regardless of who is picked to start.

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"I believe that we have a strong enough squad to win the competition, whoever the gaffer selects," the 29-year-old added.

"He will have a lot of decisions to make, but this run in the Trophy has shown the stength we have and he'll pick the sides that he thinks are capable of winning the two semi-final games and then the final, if we get there.

"Obviously I haven't featured in the competition yet, but Crackers has been doing fantastic. He's pulled off some really important saves which have kept us in games.

"It's good for him to have the opportunity to show what he can do and, honestly, nobody in the building is happier to see him doing well than I am.

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"It's good for the team in terms of the competition for places, and it helps to keep me on my toes.

"I have no idea about who the gaffer is going to select in the semi-finals, but if I'm not picked then I've got no issue with that. Obviously, I would love to play, however I'd be delighted for Crackers if he gets the nod."

The winners of Town's semi-final against County will face either Halesowen Town or whoever emerges from the other postponed quarter-final clash between Concord Rangers and Royston Town.