Harrogate Town's victory at Walsall FC proves that they don't have to dominate games to be successful

A different strategic approach helped Harrogate Town record a welcome victory at Walsall on Saturday.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 1:39 pm
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 2:28 pm
All 10 of Harrogate Town's outfield players celebrate together after they took the lead at Walsall on Saturday. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites won for the first time in five League Two outings courtesy of strikes from Simon Power, Jack Diamond and Luke Armstrong, arresting their recent slide down the table.

Clinical though they were going forwards, it was however Simon Weaver's team's defensive solidity which really caught the eye following a run of matches that has seen them concede some seriously poor goals.

Having blasted them following last week's 4-0 EFL Trophy defeat to Sheffield Wedneday, the Harrogate chief was full of praise for his back-line, hailing a much-improved defensive effort.

Simon Weaver watches on at the Bescot Stadium.

And although Weaver talked about the significance of his players' improved levels of concentration and a heightened sense of awareness in and around their own box, there was more to it than that.

There was a discipline and organisation about Town's work out of possession that has certainly been missing too often this term. They were happy to drop off, keep numbers behind the ball and challenge Walsall to break them down, something the Saddlers struggled to do.

And Weaver felt that the way in which his troops took on board his instructions, adapted to the change in approach and implemented his game-plan showed real maturity.

"This was one of our most mature performances since coming into the Football League, we conserved energy when we needed to and dropped into shape to make sure that we were solid throughout the game," he said.

"Walsall are probably the form team in the league, they were unbeaten in something like seven games and they've deserved every one of those wins, so we had to be dogged.

"It's alright to be that way. We've got to get away from being stressed because we're not dominating games. Just because we might not be dominating a match, that doesn't mean that we have to concede.

"We were more composed defensively in a shape that probably conserved more energy than we have been doing

"We've shifted across instead of getting picked off and the two in the middle of the park held their shape, but when the chances came to spring into attack, we had the pace and the quality to hurt them."

In addition to making Town harder to break down, Weaver also believes that Saturday's game-plan was less demanding on his players' legs, something he believes will benefit them in the long-run.

He added: "It's okay for the centre-forwards to drop in, and then they don't look shattered after the game whereas before it's been 'wow, you've used absolutely everything out there'.

"It wasn't like we were saying 'we'll stay deep all game', but we told them that there will be times when it is okay to concede possession a little bit inside their half rather than squeezing up all the time.

"There are a lot of games for a small squad to play, so if we just go 'run, run, run, run' then the lads will be running 30km every game and they'll get worn out, so we had to box clever, and I think the players did that brilliantly."

Saturday's win over Walsall lifts Harrogate up to fifth place in the League Two standings.