How Jon Stead ended Harrogate Town's penalty hoodoo

Jon Stead converts from the penalty spot during Harrogate Town's National League defeat to Torquay United. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Jon Stead converts from the penalty spot during Harrogate Town's National League defeat to Torquay United. Picture: Matt Kirkham

At the fifth time of asking, a Harrogate Town player finally scored from the penalty spot in a National League fixture.

Jon Stead converted from 12 yards to break the deadlock in Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Torquay United, ending a run of four consecutive misses by Simon Weaver's players.

Joe Leesley put one wide against Notts County last month, barely a week after Brendan Kiernan cleared the cross bar in Town's opening-day draw at home to Solihull Moors.

Prior to that, Jack Muldoon saw two spot-kicks saved – against Wrexham and AFC Fylde – in successive games at the back end of last season.

And although Muldoon had netted his previous two penalties, Mark Beck (away at Dover Athletic) and George Thomson (at home to Hartlepool United) had failed to score the couple before those.

This meant that, prior to Saturday, six of the last eight penalties that Town had been awarded in competitive fixtures had been wasted, a bad record by anyone’s standards.

Yet, despite the pressure of the situation given his team's recent failures from the spot, Stead insists that he did not feel nervous as he stepped up on the English Riviera.

"I've taken penalties the majority of my career, really. I've always done alright and scored a lot more than I've missed and I just saw it as a good thing, an opportunity to score my first goal for the club," he said.

"As soon as I went down, Brendan [Kiernan] had the ball and asked me if I wanted it and as soon as someone asks me that I'm saying 'yes' to them, every time.

"I obviously wanted it because I wanted to get off the mark and up and running and get the goals coming.

"It didn't come into my mind that we'd missed the last few, which is probably a good thing as those kind of tensions don't help. I felt confident rather than any worries."

Having placed the ball on the spot with a clear head, Stead then watched the movement of Gulls stopper Lucas Covolan-Cavagnari before deciding which way to go.

"I was pleased with the penalty," he added.

"I had an idea that he [Torquay's goalkeeper] was going to go that way, I do normally go the way which he dived, to be fair, but he went quite early so I could kind of take my time and slide it in the empty net.

"I had a little look out of the corner of my eye as I took my final few steps to see which way he was moving. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

"Hopefully scoring that one means that I've now staked my claim for taking the next one we get, if I'm on the pitch."

Stead followed up his penalty conversion with a second goal, a strike that owed much to his anticipation of where team-mate George Smith would deliver the ball from wide on the left.

"Sometimes when you're playing in a 4-3-3 you're on your own in the box so you've got to make a decision," Stead said.

"In the first half he [George Smith] hit a fantastic ball in and I tried to get across the front post but didn't quite get there.

"I normally just go off how they are addressing the ball. If he's a full-back out wide and he's not at the touchline, he's gonna have to put height and distance on the ball for me to effect it.

"I was tussling with their centre-half quite a bit and once that ball drifted away I knew that if I could get my body in line and angle it back across the keeper then he'd be in trouble because he'd be travelling this way, so it was just about getting it back across the goal."

Saturday was just Stead's second start since arriving at Town from Notts County in the summer, yet he will now have to sit out this weekend's home meeting with Boreham Wood due to being sent off shortly after putting his team 2-1 ahead.

"I've had to be patient because Becky [Mark Beck] and Jack [Mudoon] have been playing well up front, but it has been frustrating," he continued.

"It was maybe a bit of a shock coming to a new club and to not be starting, so I've been biding my time and waiting for my chance, but been trying to support and encourage the other lads at the same time.

"I've always been the type of player who needs to play regular football to get the best out of me.

"Obviously I want to be playing. I've got two starts under my belt now, I'm happy with the way I've performed and I've scored two goals so I feel like I'm just starting to get going, but I'll have to sit out on Saturday due to the sending off.

"The timing is bad. It's very frustrating. I'm someone who always wants to be out there, but I've got a bit of time to work hard on my fitness and make sure I'm ready to go when the next game comes around."