Perfect end to 2019 leaves Harrogate Town in a position to mount a genuine challenge
Harrogate Advertiser sports editor Rhys Howell has his say on the latest goings-on at Harrogate Town.
I ended last week’s column hoping that what has been a very good year overall for Harrogate Town would end in positive fashion.
Back-to-back victories secured, I can think we can safely say that that box has been ticked.
I must confess, however, that at half-time on Boxing Day I wasn’t overly confident that Simon Weaver’s players were going to go on and beat Hartlepool.
After what was a rather turgid first 45 where the visitors squeezed the life out of Town and denied them any space in which to play, I just had a feeling that the hosts were going to get done in the second period.
Pools had looked reasonably threatening on the counter-attack and I sensed that they were going to nick a goal.
I was, as it turns out, completely wrong, but who in the CNG Stadium could have seen that four-goal, second-half blitz coming?
Fair play to Town, because they really upped the ante and got their rewards in the end, while Jack M uldoon’s second goal is one that will live long in the memory of everybody in attendance.
Less than 48 hours after leaving the pitch following that 4-1 success, the Harrogate players then had to drag themselves to Chorley for a fixture that might have been against the National League’s bottom side, but was never, ever going to be easy.
Again, credit where credit is due. Another three points and a clean-sheet is an excellent return on the road in this division, regardless of the opposition.
The Magpies are the worst side I’ve seen play at Wetherby Road this term and may well be propping up the league at this moment in time, but if you look at their record ahead of Saturday’s fixture, it’s clear that they’re no whipping boys.
Chorley had only lost 11 league fixtures prior to their defeat to Town, a record that was better or equal to all but one of the seven teams immediately above them, and also superior to 14th-placed Torquay.
The Lancashire outfit’s problem has been converting draws (12) into victories (4), but that statistic only goes to prove that they’re not an easy team to beat.
So, Town should take plenty of positives from that result, and they really need to.
If they are to match their manager’s ambition and mount a genuine challenge for a place in the top-three, then their away form is going to have to improve significantly.
Their win on Saturday was their first on the road in five attempts.
And although it moved them to within three points of leaders Barrow, their lofty position owes much to their excellent home form – an unbeaten run stretching back as far as September, during which they have taken maximum points from seven of their last eight.
By contrast, Town had banked just one point from a possible 12 on offer away from the CNG Stadium prior to last weekend’s 2-0 triumph.
And, while ensuring that their own ground remains a fortress will probably be just about enough to keep them in and around the play-off places, only a serious upturn in fortunes on their travels will allow them to mount an assault on the summit.
Their next opportunity comes at Hartlepool on New Year’s Day, where three points really would send a message that Weaver and his men are legitimate contenders...