Looking back at Harrogate Town's 'roller-coaster' opening-day win over Rochdale AFC

Harrogate Town kick-off their 2022/23 League Two campaign at home to Swindon on Saturday, but will do well to match the drama they managed to serve up on the opening day of last season.

By rhys howell
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 12:48 pm
Warren Burrell celebrates after netting Harrogate Town’s stoppage-time winner during a 3-2 success over Rochdale on the opening day day of 2021/22. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Warren Burrell celebrates after netting Harrogate Town’s stoppage-time winner during a 3-2 success over Rochdale on the opening day day of 2021/22. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Long-serving defender Warren Burrell popped up late in the day to net a stoppage-time winner and fire the Sulphurites to a 3-2 victory over Rochdale at Wetherby Road.

Simon Weaver’s men started their 2021/22 curtain-raiser superbly, racing into a two-goal lead courtesy of early debut strikes from Luke Armstrong and Alex Pattison, only to find themselves pegged back by the 49th-minute.

The contest could have gone either way from that point, with both teams creating decent opportunities to add to their tallies.

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver celebrates with the home fans following his side's dramatic 3-2 victory over Rochdale on August 7, 2021.

But, Town were not to be denied and eventually wrapped up the three points during the early seconds of time added on.

“It was a great start to the season,” Weaver told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“It was a game full of energy and excitement and so much of that was down to the contribution of both sets of supporters, which just adds to the adrenaline.

“It was a rollercoaster ride, but we finished really well and finished on top thanks to Warren’s goal.

“The reaction from the fans, the ecstasy on the bench, the scenes after the final whistle where everybody stayed and gave such a rousing reception to the players shows why we do this job.”

The game was just five minutes old when Town forward Jack Muldoon used his body cleverly to create himself a bit of space down the right before advancing towards the Rochdale box.

He then delivered an inch-perfect cross to the near post where strike partner Armstrong took a touch and stabbed the ball past Jay Lynch.

The hosts were in dreamland five minutes later, Pattison bringing the ball under his spell on the left edge of the away penalty area before bending a cultured effort around the despairing dive of Lynch and just inside the far upright.

It was however all to easy for the visitors to get themselves back in the contest after a quarter of an hour, Stephen Dooley – who is now a Harrogate player – rolling the ball into the path of Alex Newby, whose cute finish across Mark Oxley trickled over the line.

The second 45 began in stark contrast to the first, Dale flying out of the blocks to level matters on 49 minutes though Connor Grant’s clinical finish from a cut-back from the right.

That goal seemed certain to shift the momentum very much in the visitors’ favour, though the Harrogate response was positive and chances came and went at both ends.

But, with the match into time added on, before George Thomson’s corner from the right was met at the back stick by the towering Connor Hall, kept alive following a scramble by Lloyd Kerry, then swept in from eight yards out by Burrell.

That dramatic victory meant that Town ended the opening weekend second in the League Two standings and set them off on a seven-match unbeaten run.

How Weaver and his men would love to find themselves in the same position come 5pm this Saturday.