A new era at Harrogate Town began in fine fashion as Simon Weaver’s men cruised to a 4-0 success over Nuneaton Town at the CNG Stadium on Saturday.
The club kicked-off their first ever competitive fixture as a full-time, professional outfit and then went on to produce an impressive opening-day performance.
The opening quarter of an hour of the National League North fixture were fairly even, with Town just shading things.
The 16th minute then saw them take the lead as Joe Leesley’s in-swinging corner from the right found George Thomson unmarked in the six-yard box to nod home, despite the efforts of a Nuneaton man on the goalline.
It could easily have been 2-0 just nine minutes later when Thomson’s cute pass released overlapping full-back Ryan Fallowfield down the right.
Breaking into the box, the former North Ferriby United man pulled the ball back for Leesley at the back post, but he could only fire into the side-netting from a narrow angle.
Weaver’s men continued to grow into the game and were well in the ascendancy as half-time approached.
Struggling to match their hosts, Nuneaton concentrated mainly on giving away niggly fouls, however they could and should have been level a minute before the interval.
A raking pass out of defence from Niall Heaton allowed former Leicester City forward Ashley Chambers to burst through on goal and take the ball around Harrogate stopper James Belshaw.
He then kept his composure to glide past one of two covering Town defenders, before somehow shooting wide of the target rather than into a gaping goal from just a couple of yards out.
Having bossed much of the opening half, boss Weaver will no doubt have been demanding more of the same from his charges in the second period.
And the home players did pick up where they left off after the break, immediately pushing Nuneaton back and putting pressure on the away goal.
One incisive raid saw Thewlis break from the centre-circle before picking out Thomson down the right.
His delicious bending cross found Simon Ainge arriving close to the penalty spot and Town’s skipper was unlucky to see a looping header bounce back off the crossbar with visiting custodian Tyrell Belford rooted to the spot.
Belford was beaten again moments later, but this time there was to be no reprieve for the men from Warwickshire.
Another Leesley corner into the six-yard box caused problems for the away defence and after Ainge’s header found its way back to Ben Middleton, the defender’s goal-bound strike was helped over the line by Thewlis for 2-0 in the 60th minute.
The game was well and truly over as a contest six minutes later when Leesley drilled a right-wing free-kick across the face of goal and Thewlis applied the faintest of touches to help the ball on its way into the net.
A fine bit of interplay down the right then saw Jack Emmett burst into the area before being felled by a mis-timed sliding tackle.
Captain Ainge stepped up to do the honours from the penalty spot, smashing the ball down the middle to round-off a fine 4-0 triumph with 82 minutes on the clock.
Belshaw was forced to make a pair of smart diving saves in the closing stages, but was not be denied a clean-sheet as the hosts saw the game out with relative ease.
Harrogate Advertiser man of the match: Warren Burrell. A tough choice with a number of players including Leesley, Ainge, Falkingham and Thomson impressing on the day. Burrell, however, oozed class at centre-half, producing a near-faultless display.