Five-star Knowles fires Town to emphatic win over Curzon

Dominic Knowles, right, is congratulated by Liam Agnew after netting his fifth goal against Curzon Ashton. Picture: Town Pix
Dominic Knowles, right, is congratulated by Liam Agnew after netting his fifth goal against Curzon Ashton. Picture: Town Pix

Dominic Knowles’ fabulous five-goal haul ensured that Harrogate Town finished the regular National League North season on a high note at home to Curzon Ashton.

Simon Weaver’s side had already secured second place ahead of Saturday’s fixture, but a 5-0 success - which took their league goal tally to 100 for 2017/18 - sets them up perfectly for their promotion play-off semi-final next weekend.

“This was a really good performance, we came out the traps fast and pressed them high up the pitch,” boss Weaver reflected.

“We set out to be really aggressive and I think it paid dividend and we got our rewards.

“[Knowles] dispatched his chances and looked ruthless in front of goal, and reaching 100 goals is the icing on the cake - what a tally!

“It obviously reflects well on the team. They’ve put in a tremendous shift this season, full of honesty and excitement and we’ll try and win the play-offs now.

“It’s easier said than done, there’s a lot of quality out there and it will be a tough task, that’s for sure.”

Town threatened as early as the fourth minute when George Thomson met Jordan Thewlis’ left-wing cross at the back post but his header was deflected narrowly wide.

Mark Beck then ghosted in unmarked to meet Thomson’s inviting ball in from the right, however his initial effort was blocked by Curzon keeper Cameron Mason and the big forward then seemed to lose his bearings as he attempted to force home the rebound.

With 22 minutes gone, Beck’s knock down inside the six-yard-box found Thewlis, and he went closer still to breaking the deadlock, firing a shot into ground that bounced up and onto the crossbar.

A goal was coming, however, and 60 seconds later, Town eventually made the breakthrough.

John McCombe played the ball out of defence to the lively Thewlis who delivered a fine cross that Knowles nodded in with ease at the back stick.

Out of nothing, the visitors almost dragged themselves back into the contest as Tyrell McKenzie let fly with an absolute thunderbolt from long range, but although the strike left Joe Cracknell grasping at thin air, the ball thudded against the woodwork.

There were no more goals before the interval, but the second period was just 14 seconds old when Weaver’s men doubled their advantage.

A combination of Liam Agnew and Jack Emmett dispossessed a Curzon man straight from kick-off and the latter caressed a cute through-ball for Knowles to run on to before planting a confident finish past Mason.

With 50 minutes on the clock, Knowles completed his hat-trick and ended the game as a contest, picking up Beck’s knock down, skinning a defender then advancing into the box and producing another calm finish.

With Curzon looking a shambles at the back at times, Town continued to create chances at will and substitute Jake Wright fired wide of the near post before Beck climbed well to meet Thomson’s right-wing corner, but couldn’t direct his header on target.

At the other end, it looked as if the away team had won themselves a penalty as Ryan Fallowfield slid in on Ben McKenna inside the box, but the visiting player was booked for a dive.

Curzon’s Richard Baker then forced the ball home from a free-kick following some uncertain defending by McCombe, but the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside.

Normal service was resumed when Town added their fourth of the afternoon from the penalty spot in the 89th minute.

Wright burst into the box and went down under what looked a trip, and although the referee originally pointed for a goal-kick, he then changed his mind on the advice of his linesman.

Knowles stepped up and made no mistake, sending Mason the wrong way as he picked out the bottom-left corner of the net.

There was still time for Town’s man of the match to add both his and the hosts’ fifth in added-time, tucking away Wright’s inviting cross from the right side of the penalty area to round off a fine afternoon’s work.