View from the press box: Fine margins, bad luck and what might have been

Harrogate Town were denied victory at Halifax by a 91st-minute goal. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town were denied victory at Halifax by a 91st-minute goal. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Harrogate Advertiser Series sports editor Rhys Howell has his say on the latest goings-on at Harrogate Town.

After three consecutive 2-1 defeats where the outcome of each game could easily have been quite different, I thought that Harrogate Town’s luck had changed on New Year’s Day.

With 90 minutes already up, they led Halifax 1-0 courtesy of a goal of their own that may well have had an element of fortune about it, and looked on course for a much-needed three points.

That was until Jonathan Edwards’ injury-time strike found its way past James Belshaw with the aid of several deflections.

It was a tough one to take as Town had looked the better side for the majority of the contest, particularly during a first half that they dominated.

Indeed, Simon Weaver’s men certainly warranted something from their trip to Eastleigh just before Christmas and could have been out of sight at half-time when they hosted Halifax on Boxing Day.

And, while far from their scintillating best at home to a very good AFC Fylde outfit on the final Saturday of 2018, Town did not, in my opinion, deserve to finish the game empty-handed.

What makes matters worse, is that after three hard-to-swallow losses, Tuesday’s encounter was the fourth in succession in which they saw points evaporate after conceding late on.

Eastleigh’s winner came in the 82nd minute, Dayle Southwell struck for Halifax at the CNG Stadium with 88 on the clock and Danny Rowe converted a contentious penalty for Fylde in time added on.

I mention luck, and while I think that Town have been on the wrong end of some over the Christmas period, the fact that they were turned over at home to Halifax was due to them not turning up for the second 45.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that could easily still have won that game, such was their superiority before half-time.

The margins are undoubtedly fine, such is the competitive nature of the National League with more than half of the teams in the division still in genuine contention for a play-off spot.

With leaders Leyton Orient, second-placed Wrexham and Salford City all among a host of sides in and around the top of the table to have dropped points in recent weeks, it’s hard not to think about how different the league standings might look right now.

Had they just managed to hold out a few minutes longer in each of their last four outings Town would have an additional five points on the board and would be level with third-placed Salford, rather than 10 points shy of the summit and only one more bad result away from falling out of the play-off picture.

Fine margins, indeed.