Harrogate Town's problems in front of goal stem from a lack of belief, says Simon Weaver

Having gone four games without scoring a single goal, to suggest that Harrogate Town have problems in the final third would really be stating the obvious.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 1:48 pm
Mark Beck was the last Harrogate Town striker to score a goal, but it came almost a month ago. Picture: Getty Images

But why are the Sulphurites struggling to put the ball in the back of the opposition’s net?

After witnessing his side strike just once in their last five outings and draw a blank in five of their previous seven, manager Simon Weaver feels as if his attacking players are lacking belief.

“It’s just not happening in the final third. I feel like there is belief missing,” he told the Harrogate Advertiser.

Town top-scorer Jack Muldoon is dispossessed by Leon Legge during Easter Monday's home defeat to Port Vale. Picture: Matt Kirkham

“It’s probably just a sign of a lack of confidence when you don’t score when you’re on top and I think that is the only difference between what we were doing only a few months ago compared to what we are doing now.

“We got on a run then of scoring a goal and that galvanises a team.

“It is a bit of a concern because its a recurring theme that we are not breaking the deadlock when we are on top and it is taking us a lot of opportunities to score a goal.”

The last time Town found the back of the net was when defender Jay Williams forced the ball home with his shoulder from a George Thomson corner in the dying seconds of March 13’s 2-1 defeat at Forest Green Rovers.

Worryingly, a recognised striker has not registered since Mark Beck’s first-minute effort during the 3-0 win over Colchester United on March 9.

More than nine hours of football have been played in the mean-time and the significance of this statistic is not lost on Weaver, who again pointed to the issue of confidence when assessing the recent performances of his forwards.

“We’ve not got a centre-forward who is in a rich vein of form at the minute who can be the difference in these tight games,” he added.

“You tend to find at all levels that goalscorers ebb and flow with confidence. When people aren’t on a run, they’ve got to fight their way through a bit of a dip in confidence.

“We look like a team that has taken a hit to the confidence and that’s what happens sometimes when you lose a few games in a row.”

Both Harrogate’s fortunes and their ability to score goals have taken a nose-dive since loanee Josh March suffered a season-ending knee injury and returned to parent club Forest Green last month.

The 24-year-old contributed five goals and two assists having arrived in January and added an extra dimension to Town’s forward line.

It is clear that the Sulphurites are worse off without the pacy striker’s clever movement in and around the penalty area, but quite understandably, Weaver says he can’t afford to waste too much time thinking about a player who is no longer at his disposal.

Asked if Harrogate are missing March, he replied: “I think we’ve got to stop talking about that because we want our current players to score goals.”

Town’s most recent failure to score came when they lost 2-0 to Port Vale on Easter Monday.

With a strong wind at their backs, they created a number of decent first-half openings, but found Valiants goalkeeper Scott Brown in good form.

Having then fallen behind two minutes into the second period, the hosts struggled to muster any kind of a response playing into a strong breeze.

“Because of the wind it was always going to be a battle second half,” Weaver said.

“We told the players to value a point. We hadn’t taken our opportunities to break the deadlock in the first half, so we said value the point, it might turn out to be a really important one.

“We knew that we wouldn’t create as much in the second half, simply because of the strength of the wind and the conditions, but as an attacking force we didn’t do enough, we didn’t show enough quality. We didn’t even win enough first balls.

“I always back the players. They turned up against Port Vale and we looked a really good team, if just lacking a little bit where it mattered in their box.”