Maidenhead United v Harrogate Town: We must tighten up, says James Belshaw

Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw says there is no way that the club will be able to sustain their challenge at the top end of the National League table if they continue to leak soft goals.

The Wetherby Road outfit kept four clean-sheets in the space of five games earlier in the season, but have not managed a shut-out in any of their previous six fixtures.

On Tuesday evening, they did more than enough in an attacking sense to earn themselves what would have been an impressive victory at fellow promotion-hopefuls Salford City, only to gift their hosts three goals on their way to a 3-2 defeat.

And, with this in mind, Belshaw has warned that Town need to tighten up, starting at Maidenhead United this weekend.

“The gaffer [Simon Weaver] and Thirs [Paul Thirlwell] were right in what they said to us. The three at Salford were all poor goals to concede,” he reflected.

“The first was a strike from outside the box, but we didn’t close their lad down, and given the high standards I set myself, I think I should have been able to keep it out.

“The second we’ve allowed their striker far too much space inside the box and the third goal is schoolboy stuff where we haven’t tracked our runners.

“We have to defend better as a team, see the danger and react to it. We are all accountable for ourselves.

“If we want to try and win the National League title or challenge for promotion – which we do – then we have to be better than that.

“You can’t expect to go to Salford and give those kinds of goals away and still come away with anything.

“The result is massively frustrating because in the first half we were very good going forwards and got ourselves into a really strong position.”

Belshaw insists that Town will work hard on what went wrong on the training pitch this week in a bid to make sure they can bounce back immediately when they travel to Maidenhead on Saturday.

“We don’t need to completely rip up the script, what we’ve been doing has served us well so far and we’d only lost two in 20 prior to the Salford game,” he added.

“We know we have to tighten up, because clean-sheets win you championships, but I’m sure there’ll be a reaction at Maidenhead.

“The back four and myself have kept us in games and won us plenty of points already this season, and they’re the kind of performances we want to get back to.”

Maidenhead lie in 20th position in the National League standings after 21 games, but head into Saturday's with Town contest in decent form having picked up four points from their last two games.

Chinua Cole’s effort helped them to a 1-1 draw with Ebbsfleet on Tuesday night, following their 1-0 win at Sutton United last weekend.