Harrogate Town's ex-Manchester City midfielder Ed Francis denies Manchester United's Class of '92 with first professional goal

There is no danger of Harrogate Town midfielder Ed Francis ever forgetting his first goal in professional football.

Sunday, 24th January 2021, 10:34 am
Updated Sunday, 24th January 2021, 10:40 am
Ed Francis celebrates after bagging a stoppage-time equaliser as Harrogate Town drew 2-2 at Salford City. Picture: Matt Kirkham

With the Sulphurites trailing Salford City 2-1 deep into injury-time, the former Manchester City academy product and under-18s skipper popped up with a dramatic late equaliser.

The 22-year-old stabbed the ball home after Harrogate goalkeeper James Belshaw had directed an effort goalwards following an almighty scramble at a 93rd-minute corner.

And his close-range finish proved sufficient to end Town's five-game losing streak against the big-spending Ammies, who are owned by Manchester United Class of '92 stars including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

Jay Williams, left, and Josh March join Ed Francis, right, in celebrating Town's late leveller at the Peninsula Stadium. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Needless to say, Francis was thrilled with his last-gasp leveller.

"It was a great feeling, obviously it's nice to the get the equalising goal but even better to get the point for the team," he told the Harrogate Advertiser.

"Belly [Belshaw] came up for the corner and there was carnage. It was like a rugby scrum, and the ball has dropped, he's had a shot and I just saw it come across and stuck a leg out. It's great for me to get my first professional goal.

"We'd had chances and it did feel like they might have come and gone. We hit the bar, and their keeper made a great save [from Josh March] just before we got the second goal.

Ed Francis captained Manchester City's under-18s side. Picture: Getty Images

"Our performance deserved something and the late goal shows the team spirit we have. Coming back shows that we are a team with great camaraderie and that we can do it, we can fight back in games.

"It means a lot to us, it will give us a lot of confidence and belief going forwards."

Francis, who joined Harrogate on a free transfer last month following his departure from Wolverhampton Wanderers, has shone in his favoured central midfield role since arriving in North Yorkshire.

Yet, Friday night's League Two clash with Salford saw him deployed at left-back due to injuries to loan duo Dan Jones and Mitchell Roberts and Warren Burrell's suspension.

And, while he concedes that the role is not one which he is overly familiar with, Francis insists that he had no issue filling in, and is happy to do a job wherever manager Simon Weaver needs him to play.

"I've not played there much before, I'm definitely not a left-back but, if the gaffer wants me to do that job there, then I know that I can do it and I will always do my best for the team," the ex-England youth international added.

"I like to think that I can adapt quickly and do whatever the gaffer needs me to, so I just tried to sit in there and support Josh [McPake], who I thought had a good game as well - their right-back got dragged off after 50-odd minutes, so I think that we all did our jobs well and eventually got a result.

"I enjoyed it, I just enjoy playing football, I'd play in goal if I had to, so any position is fine by me."

Although a regular for both clubs' under-23s sides, Francis never managed a first-team game at either Manchester City or Wolves.

Indeed, his only taste of senior football prior to signing for Town came during a loan spell with Dutch second-tier outfit Almere City in 2018/19.

He joined Harrogate with the intention of playing regularly, and has hit the ground running, wasting no time in nailing down a spot in boss Weaver's starting XI.

Speaking after what was his sixth appearance in yellow and black, he revealed that he is "loving every minute" of life as a League Two footballer.

"Ever since I was 14, all I've wanted to do was play professional football. I knew that was what I wanted," he said.

"It's so competitive in League Two, and the standard is top, there are some great players at this level and I'm loving every minute.

"I'm happy with how it has gone so far. As soon as I came in, the lads made me feel welcome and the gaffer gave me an opportunity and I feel like I've taken it.

"The gaffer has put trust in me, so hopefully I've re-paid that. I'd like to think that game-by-game my performances have been getting stronger.

"It's always good to contribute with a goal and things like that, so as far as my performances go, I'm pleased. As I get to know the lads more and build connections I think that will help me improve as well."