Harrogate Town will 'play their hearts out' for absent fans in historic clash with Barrow AFC
Simon Weaver insists that his Harrogate Town team will “play their hearts out” for their absent supporters during Saturday’s historic League Two clash with Barrow.
The fixture is the first to take place at the EnviroVent Stadium since the club was promoted to the Football League (EFL) this summer.
Work to replace Town’s artificial pitch with a grass surface has only just been completed, meaning that the Sulphurites had to begin 2020/21 – their first-ever season in the club’s 106-year history as an EFL team – playing ‘home’ games at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium.
Supporters, of course, will not be able to attend the match, missing out another landmark event due to Covid-19-related social distancing rules.
The Harrogate faithful were unable to attend August's National League play-off final triumph at Wembley, their team's maiden outing as an EFL club, against Tranmere, and their League Two debut at Southend United.
And, with that in mind, Weaver has said that his players will be going all out to go and win the match for their fans.
“Of course it will be special, it will be magic,” the Town boss said of the club’s homecoming.
“We can’t wait to be back playing in Harrogate, but it’s so disappointing the thought of being back home but without the fans alongside us.
“But, at least they know we are just around the corner from them if they’re watching it online at home or somewhere and that the lads will be playing their hearts out for them.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to try and get the win.”
Town have won one, drawn one and lost one playing in Doncaster, and although the experience does not seem to have had any adverse effects, Weaver revealed that both and he and his players are craving some home comforts.
“We’re really looking forward to it because it’s felt like so long since we played at our own stadium,” he added.
“Playing at Doncaster has been okay, but you don’t half miss being in Harrogate, getting your home comforts in your own ground, your own changing rooms. It will be brilliant.
“The grass is new of course, but it’s knitting together nicely, it looks great and that tight pitch will suit how we play.”
Town and fellow EFL newcomers Barrow have plenty of history, with the Cumbrians pipping Weaver's men to the National League title last term.
The Bluebirds have begun 2020/21 slowly, however, and are yet to taste victory, recording three draws and two defeats thus far.
Ex-Blackburn Rovers midfielder David Dunn has replaced Ian Evatt in the managerial hot-seat at Holker Street, though Weaver still expects that Barrow will try to play football when they visit North Yorkshire.
“Saturday will be another big occasion and it should be a really good contest," he said.
"Barrow can knock it about as well, we could be in for another cracking game of football, just like at Bradford the other night.”
The last meeting between the sides came during the opening week of the 2019/20 season when Town won 3-0 at Holker Street.
Will Smith (2) and Connor Hall were the men on target for Harrogate that night.