Harrogate Town's Luke Armstrong reaps the rewards of his hard work during win at Leyton Orient

It is not just Luke Armstrong's goal-scoring prowess that Harrogate Town have benefited from since his arrival at Wetherby Road.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 8:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 8:06 am
Luke Armstong in action against Leyton Orient on Tuesday evening. Picture: Harrogate Town AFC

Having notched within five minutes of his debut against Rochdale on the opening day of 2021/22, the 25-year-old centre-forward made it three goals in as many games when he hit a first-half brace at Leyton Orient in midweek.

Yet, in addition to his ruthlessness in front of goal, it is the powerhouse striker's work-rate off the ball that has really stood out.

Armstrong is extremely effective while in possession, bullying centre-backs and linking the play as the focal point of Simon Weaver's attack, but also a serious nuisance out of it.

Town's eight-minute opener at Orient arrived after he challenged Darren Pratley deep inside home territory, winning the ball for team-mate Alex Pattison.

The Harrogate midfielder then fed George Thomson, who pulled the ball back from the right for Armstrong to take a touch, then prod home inside the six-yard box.

"I've always been someone who would press defenders," the former Middlesbough attacker told the Harrogate Advertiser.

"At Hartlepool last year I was asked not to do as much of it, the manager said not to press as much as I do, but now I'm starting to learn a bit better when to press and when's the best time to do it, not just wasting energy.

"A lot of the time they [the Orient defenders] didn't have any time on the ball to do anything, it's just what I do.

"For the first goal, I won the ball back off the central-midfielder and Patto has done well to drive forward and slide in Thommo, who has cut it back lovely for us. It's taken a nick off a defender on the way, so I've had to take a touch then managed to poke it home."

His next goal arrived just after the half-hour-mark and showcased his poacher's instinct after Lawrence Vigoroux made an unconvincing save from Thomson's strike.

With the loose ball rolling back across the face of goal, Armstrong looked second favourite to reach it ahead of two Orient defenders, but showed great desire to ensure he got there first.

"The second one, I got the final touch in the end, slid in at the back post and got a little touch," he added.

"You've got to go for them, there's a challenge there to be won and I've just tried to win it."

Two goals to the good and seemingly in full control at the interval, Harrogate were dealt a blow just three minutes into the second period when referee Carl Brook adjudged Josh Falkingham to have diverted Dan Kemp's shot over the cross-bar with his arm and awarded Orient a penalty.

Sulphurites stopper Mark Oxley would however come to his side's rescue by saving Harry Smith's spot-kick, a moment which Armstrong believes was crucial on the night.

"It was really harsh, a tough one to take. The speed the ball was coming at him, it's happened so quickly but Ox was brilliant," he reflected.

"The first three games, you can't fault him at all and he's made a fantastic save tonight, but I think that was what we deserved - for him to save the penalty.

"It would have changed the game massively if they had scored then. You never know where it would have gone from there, but they'd have got a massive buzz off scoring - that is what happened to us in the first half."

Town had failed to beat Orient in four previous attempts and lost without scoring a single goal on both of their prior visits to Brisbane Road.

And with Kenny Jackett's men unbeaten in four competitive outings going into Tuesday's encounter, Armstrong admitted that he and his team-mates would have taken a point.

"Leyton Orient is a really tough place to come, so to get anything out of the game would have been a bonus. To win it and not concede is brilliant," he added following Harrogate's third win in as many League Two outings this term.

"We're over the moon, the start we've had has been perfect and I'm really enjoying it here.

"Obviously goals help but the manager believes in me and I believe in what we're trying to do. It's all going really well."