Harrogate Town 2 Stockport County 4: Three things we learned from FA Trophy exit

Aaron Williams is thwarted by Stockport County goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Aaron Williams is thwarted by Stockport County goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Harrogate Town's hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy were dashed when they lost out 4-2 at home to Stockport County.

Here are three things we learned from Saturday's clash at the CNG Stadium.

1. Town's run of games without a clean-sheet is unlikely to end anytime soon on current form.

It is now 18 matches since Harrogate Town last kept a clean-sheet and this long run isn't going to end any time soon if they continue to gift opponents as many clear scoring opportunities as they did on Saturday.

All four of Stockport's goals came as a direct result of a Town player giving the ball away or making a mistake in possession.

Admittedly, Adam Thomas' strike to level matters at 1-1 was nicely-executed from a position where he didn't have very much of the goal to aim at, but the other three were all easy finishes with James Belshaw left completely exposed.

And although the freak nature of some of the errors that led to County's goals are unlikely to be repeated, the fact remains that even when they're playing well, Town can't shut out their opponents.

They were superb for 90 minutes against Hartlepool United in their previous outing, yet still managed to concede a soft goal, from nowhere.

The club are blessed with some excellent defenders, yet as a team, they are currently too easy to score against.

While it is impossible to conjure up a way to ensure that they are never breached, what they must do is tighten up and force teams to really work hard for even a single sight of Belshaw's goal.

At the moment, a combination of individual errors and lapses in concentration mean that opponents are going to be able to hurt them all too regularly.

2. Goals really do change games.

Town dominated possession during the first 20 minutes of Saturday's contest and looked extremely comfortable, albeit faced by a side who were happy to sit back with numbers behind the ball.

Then, in the space of about 90 seconds, Stockport went from 1-0 down to being 2-1 up and all of a sudden they were in the ascendancy.

The period of play that followed the Hatters' second goal saw them pressing hard for a third with Town rocking.

Having weathered the storm, Simon Weaver's men finished the opening period on the front foot and could easily have gone in level at 2-2 if George Thomson had capitalised on a good chance just seconds before the half-time whistle.

They came out with all to play for after the break, yet then gifted Stockport number three of the afternoon just four minutes after the resumption and that was pretty much that.

At 3-1 down against a side who demonstrated more than a bit of defensive nous, it was always going to be a massive uphill battle.

There's obviously never a good moment to concede, but the timing of the visitors' second and third goals on Saturday really knocked the stuffing out of Town.

3.Town possess the firepower to get them out of almost any situation.

While their defensive failings cannot be ignored, had Town taken their chances at the other end, they could well have earned themselves a replay.

They scored two very decent goals and went close on three of four occasions to adding to that tally.

Thomson was twice left with just visiting stopper Ben Hinchliffe to beat, at 2-1 and at 3-1, while substitute Aaron Williams almost made an immediate impression off the bench, sparking a scramble in the away box with an over-head kick.

The positive to take from this is that, as an attacking force, Town are without doubt potent enough to trouble any team they come up against.

Speaking after the game, skipper Josh Falkingham said that it was one he felt could easily have finished 4-4, and he does have a point.

Town don't just need to tighten up at the back, they can also be more clinical at the other end.