Newport County v Harrogate Town: Sulphurites stronger overall, but one defender is a doubt and one is set to miss out

Harrogate Town's squad will have a much stronger look about it at Newport County this weekend.

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 8:38 am
Ryan Fallowfield was withdrawn shortly after half-time as Harrogate Town lost out 4-0 at Luton Town in the third round of the FA Cup last weekend. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites were only able to name four substitutes for Sunday's FA Cup third round trip to Luton and it has been eight matches since they were last able to fill their bench with a full compliment of players.

But, as they finally return to League Two action with a behind-closed-doors clash against the Exiles on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm), Simon Weaver has better options at his disposal.

That is not to say that Town will be at full-strength, with winger Simon Power and striker Aaron Martin still sidelined with injuries that have kept them out for some time.

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Influential midfielder Alex Pattison is in contention to return to action at Newport County.

Wideman Jack Diamond is still yet to return on loan from parent club Sunderland, centre-half Will Smith is unlikely to be fit enough to feature, and right-back Ryan Fallowfield is touch-and-go.

The good news, however, is that seven-goal midfielder Alex Pattison will return and targetman Mark Beck is available again having been cup-tied at Luton.

In addition, veteran centre-back Leon Legge and Wolverhampton Wanderers loan defender Lewis Richards both come into the reckoning having arrived at the club earlier this week.

"Alex will be okay, he has come back really refreshed and will make us so much stronger with the pace and power he has," Weaver said.

"Leon and Lewis are both available and Ryan has trained a bit this week after coming off due to some tightness in his groin at Luton.

"We'll have to see how he is and then make a decision."

The news on Smith wasn't quite as positive, the ex-Barnsley man having tweaked a muscle in training just days after returning from the double-hernia surgery he underwent in November.

"I think Saturday will come too soon for Will," Weaver added.

"I expect he probably needs a little bit longer, but overall we're stronger in terms of the squad for Newport.

"We've been having to manage with three or four substitutes for quite a few weeks now and that strength in numbers is something we have missed.

"We were 2-0 down at Luton on Sunday and then conceded two poor goals late on and I wonder if that was partly down to us needing fresh legs in different areas having matched a Championship team for more than 80 minutes in a game that was played at quite a pace."

Town have not played a League Two game in almost a month, their last fixture in the fourth tier coming at Sutton United on December 18.

Since then, they have won two EFL Trophy ties against Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United before last weekend's FA Cup loss at Luton.

The combination of them not having tasted victory in a League Two match since November 23 and their recent inactivity has seen the Sulphurites slip down from a play-off position to 13th place in the table.

They do however boast games in hand on nearly all of the sides currently above them, including Newport, who are five points better off in seventh spot.