Josh Andrews: What does Birmingham City forward's arrival at Harrogate Town mean for club's other strikers?

The arrival of Josh Andrews means that Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver will have a wealth of striking options at his disposal - once everyone is fully fit.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 3:38 pm
Nineteen-year-old Birmingham City striker Josh Andrews has joined Harrogate Town on loan until the end of the season. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The 6ft 3in powerhouse became the Sulphurites' seventh signing of the January transfer window when he arrived at Wetherby Road on deadline day (Monday).

He is in his contention to make his debut at Crawley on Saturday, and will provide immediate competition in the final third for top-scorer Jack Muldoon, Aaron Martin and Josh March.

But, with veteran Jon Stead (knee) and Mark Beck (hamstring) now back in training after spells on the sidelines, the Town boss will soon have six recognised centre-forwards vying for two starting berths.

Jon Stead has not started a game since Town's goalless draw against Stevenage on October 27.

Even when fit and available, Stead and Beck have found starting opportunities limited this term. Stead has been on the field at kick-off on just three occasions in the league, and made only two brief cameos from the substitutes' bench since the end of November.

Beck, meanwhile, has begun just two League Two matches since the opening month of the campaign when he was a regular starter, though his lack of game-time can largely be attributed to a troublesome hamstring issue which he has not been able to shake off.

But, Weaver is insistent that the addition of Andrews does not spell the end of the road for anyone else within his squad.

"It's not a case of phasing anyone out, Josh's arrival just means that there is more competition for places and hopefully that drives other players on," the Harrogate boss said.

Mark Beck's only goal thus far in 2020/21 came against minnows Skelmersdale United in the FA Cup.

"Becky and Jon Stead have both trained this morning [Monday] and trained really well. They should both be back in contention soon.

"We always judge people on how they train. We select the team based on how lads perform on the training pitch, and while we don't want to have too many options in the same position, we don't want to leave ourselves short.

"What we need to avoid is, ending up with those two out injured again at the same time and then losing Aaron [Martin] as well and finding ourselves without that height and physical presence up front.

"We've found ourselves having to play a winger up front with a centre-forward at one point this season and we like the balance of having both the pace and the power within our front-two.

"Jack Muldoon has played and played and hasn't had a rest until Saturday, so we are just trying to avoid getting caught short. That's why we've moved for Josh."

Weaver concedes that when everyone is fit then it is inevitable that he will end up with a number of players sat on the sidelines, but says he would rather have to deal with disgruntled individuals than end up in a position where he can't even fill his substitutes' bench - as was the case when Town entertained Scunthorpe United on December 1.

He added: "I'd rather run the risk of having a couple who are not getting selected consistently not being as happy and having to deal with that and have an honest conversation with them, than ending up not having enough numbers in the squad.

"Hopefully, we are due some better luck with injuries and we won't end up in another situation like the one we found ourselves in during December when we had so many players missing all at once.

"But, because of Covid19, there is the possibility that you could have everyone fit and then lose a number of players to positive test results. This is something that we've had to take into consideration during the January window."

Town have made centre-half Kevin Lokko and left-winger Tom Walker available for loan, and although Weaver now has a significantly bigger group of players to work with following his busy January, he doesn't foresee any other members of his squad leaving Wetherby Road between now and the end of the season.

"It would be good for these lads to be able to go and play football," he said of Lokko and Walker.

"But, at this stage I wouldn't expect to see anyone else going. We certainly won't be pushing anyone out of the door.

"There's always the chance that if some players find themselves out of the match-day squad on a consistent basis then we may have to have some conversations. But, we'll see."