Portsmouth FC v Harrogate Town: Mark Oxley urges Harrogate Town to build on strong away performances as they aim to cause FA Cup upset

Harrogate Town have been in decent form away from home of late, and goalkeeper Mark Oxley believes the Sulphurites' mini-unbeaten run on the road will stand them in good stead ahead of Saturday's FA Cup trip to Portsmouth.

By Rhys Howell
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 8:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 8:42 pm
Harrogate Town goalkeeper Mark Oxley is beaten by Jack Payne's late penalty during Saturday's League Two draw at Swindon Town. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town goalkeeper Mark Oxley is beaten by Jack Payne's late penalty during Saturday's League Two draw at Swindon Town. Picture: Matt Kirkham

The Wetherby Road outfit visit League One Pompey in the competition’s second round following back-to-back victories at Walsall and Carlisle and a draw at Swindon last time out.

They would have been heading to Fratton Park off the back of three consecutive away wins had it not been for a controversial penalty decision which gifted the Robins a late equaliser last Saturday, but nevertheless, Town’s number one says he and his team-mates make the long trip south full of heart and determined to pick up another positive result.

“We’ve got to build on it now. There’s no point beating Carlisle and taking four points from the last two games - which is a great return - if we don’t build on it,” the 31-year-old told the Harrogate Advertiser.

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“We’ve got to look at it [Swindon] as a positive result and be upbeat ahead of Portsmouth now.

“Those four points definitely give us heart. Everyone knows we’ve got a thin squad at the minute but it just shows how good a squad we are in terms of pulling together, putting bodies on the line.

“These last two results couldn’t have set us up better for Saturday really.”

Last weekend, 8,199 fans were in attendance at Swindon, the biggest crowd Harrogate have ever played in front of.

Saturday will presumably be another step up in terms of both spectator numbers and atmosphere, while Town will also have to come up with a plan to stop their higher division hosts monopolising possession – something they did to good effect for long periods against a Robins team who average more time on the ball than any other side in League Two.

“First half, we did what we came to do, we frustrated Swindon, the game-plan worked perfectly,” Oxley added.

“We knew they were gonna come at us in the second half. They are a good team, and this is a tough place to come but I thought the boys handled the big crowd well. They didn’t particularly have loads of chances. I thought we contained them really well, it’s just a shame that we didn’t manage to hold on.

“The work-rate was excellent. We said that as soon as there is a half a chance to press we will press, and that’s what we’re all about, getting on the front foot and trying to give it to teams. I thought that it worked really well, you could hear their fans getting frustrated.

“We need to aim for more of the same on Saturday.”

Last week's 2-0 success at Carlisle saw Town register a first clean-sheet in nine League Two matches, with Oxley readily acknowledging that he and his back-line have to start delivering shut-outs on a more regular basis.

“We need more of them, it’s been a long time coming, but not for the want of trying," he added.

“But, as a group, I think we have all recognised individual roles and stuff that’s been leading to goals and hopefully we can nip that in the bud.

“It’s just a shame that there was a penalty given late in the game. I don’t know if it’s a penalty, but I think it was always going to be hard for the referee in a place like this not to give something.

“They were appealing for everything, but that just shows how far we’ve come. Swindon were crying for every decision and fair play to us for sticking to our game.”