Harrogate Town's defeat at Port Vale not down to Jack Diamond's red card, insists Simon Weaver
Simon Weaver refused to blame Jack Diamond’s red card for Harrogate Town’s 2-0 defeat to Port Vale.
The on-loan Sunderland winger was sent off for a second bookable offence in first-half stoppage time as the Sulphurites’ seven-match unbeaten run came to and end on Saturday afternoon.
Having already been shown a yellow card for an early foul, Diamond was spoken to again by referee Andrew Kitchen following another indiscretion, but still threw himself into an aerial challenge with home goalkeeper Lucas Covolan.
With the ball hanging in the air inside the Vale penalty area, the Town man looked entitled to try and get to it ahead of the former Torquay United custodian, but when he left his opponent in a heap on the turf, a second caution was inevitable.
"I won't blame the defeat on the red card. Port Vale were worthy winners because of those two strikes. Both goals were very good finishes," Weaver reflected.
"He [Diamond] was on thin ice because there had been a few offences. I'd asked the fourth official 'can you find out if it's one more foul and he's off' and he said 'depends what kind of a foul'.
"I think the way that Jack went in he was all eyes on the ball and the keeper has made the most of it and he's got him sent off. It was a blow but we'll live and learn.
"We weren't quite on it. We didn't win the war. How we've achieved our unbeaten run is by nailing the fundamentals, winning the physical battle and then getting it down and playing at pace.
"When it was pacey early on we weren't accurate enough."
Things did not begin well for Town, influential midfielder Alex Pattison suffering a cut to the head within seconds of kick-off and being forced from the field following a lengthy spell of treatment.
And, as they struggled to generate any real forward momentum, the Valiants quickly found their stride in the final third.
Jamie Proctor blasted the first decent opening of the game over the top before the hosts saw a couple of goal-bound efforts blocked in and around the Harrogate six-yard box.
The deadlock was then broken on 27 minutes after McArdle's header clear dropped for David Worrall around 25 yards out.
With Town's midfield slow to react, the Valiants winger unleashed a delicious first-time strike, which swerved into the top corner of Mark Oxley's net.
Less than two minutes later, Worrall got into the area and threatened again, forcing Oxley to save with his foot at his near post.
Vale continued to try and turn the screw, but it appeared that Weaver's men had managed to weather the storm, only for disaster to strike deep into six minutes of stoppage time as Diamond was given his marching orders.
Already facing an uphill task to get themselves back in the contest with a numerical disadvantage, Town made the worst possible start to the second period.
Barley 60 seconds after the re-start, James Wilson was able to find space on the edge of the box to beat Oxley with a neat left-footed finish.
Vale took their foot of the gas at 2-0 and Town did have chances to get themselves back into the game.
Rory McArdle saw a header from George Thomson's cross blocked on the goal-line, then Jack Muldoon got in behind and took the ball past Covolan, only for the covering Nathan Smith to nip in with a timely last-ditch challenge.
At the resulting left-wing corner, Thomson's delivery was met at the far post by McArdle, who picked out Connor Hall on the edge of the six-yard box, though he could only send a first-time strike over the top when he ought to have at least hit the target.
At the other end, the Valiants came close to adding to their tally came when Ben Garrity cleared the cross-bar, then Oxley did extremely well to react in time to keep out Mal Benning's deflected cross.
The Town stopper produced an even better save in injury-time, thwarting Proctor at point-blank range, though the damage had already been done.
Defeat sees Harrogate drop one place in the League Two standings to third.