Harrogate Town's performance against Sunderland a real confidence booster, says Mark Beck
Harrogate Town striker Mark Beck insists that he and his team-mates will take plenty of confidence from how they performed against League One Sunderland in their final pre-season friendly.
Simon Weaver’s team, who are preparing for their Football League debut later this month, more than matched their hosts at the Stadium of Light on Saturday before eventually succumbing to an 85th-minute goal by £4 million striker Will Grigg.
And Beck, a lifelong Sunderland supporter, is of the opinion that Town have nothing to fear in League Two if they can replicate a similar level performance to that seen on Wearside on a consistent basis.
“I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I believe Sunderland will be challenging for the League One title this season, so we’ll take a lot of confidence from the fact that we’ve run them very close,” he said.
“It was their final pre-season game and I think that was definitely close to what their gaffer thinks is their strongest 11 and we’re disappointed to have lost the game - which says a lot.
“I think we were good value for a draw at least, we had some half-chances in the first half and definitely rattled them.I don’t know if maybe they underestimated us a little bit but I think we shocked them with how well we played, particularly before half-time.
“Our performance was very good, and it’s a really big positive heading into the competitive fixtures. There’s no reason why we can’t go to Tranmere and Southend and into the League Two season believing that we can win a lot of games.”
The opportunity to play at the Stadium of Light was a special one for the majority of Town’s squad, many of whom were playing in the the sixth tier of English football as recently as three years ago.
But for 26-year-old Beck, a former Black Cats season-ticket holder, the experience meant even more.
“Even though it was only a pre-season friendly it’s still a bit of a dream come true to play at the stadium of my hometown club against the team I’ve supported all of my life,” added the forward, who took the field as a 65th-minute substitute.
"I had a season ticket for four or five years before I started playing professionally. If you had said to be back then, or even more recently when Sunderland were still a Premier League club that I'd be playing against them at the Stadium of Light, I wouldn't have believed it.
“I came here with Carlisle in a cup game, but didn’t make it off the bench, so it was nice to get on the pitch this time. I was really pleased when the gaffer decided to bring me on.
“It was a really good experience, definitely special for me.”
Town, who secured promotion by beating Notts County 3-1 at Wembley in the National League play-off final, return to competitive action on September 5 when they visit Tranmere Rovers in round one of the Carabao Cup.