Return of supporters 'definitely helped my game', says Harrogate Town's Aaron Martin
Harrogate Town might not have ended up with the result that they wanted, but striker Aaron Martin insists that the return of fans for Saturday's clash with Forest Green Rovers made a huge difference to him and his team-mates.
Just over 400 season-ticket holders were permitted to attend the EnviroVent Stadium at the weekend, the first time that spectators have been allowed into a game since early March due to social distancing measures.
And, Town's supporters certainly made their presence felt as they enjoyed League Two football in the flesh for the very first time.
The atmosphere which they created undoubtedly helped inspire their team, and although Harroate would eventually go on to lose the match 1-0, their performance was much-improved from the one served up during last Tuesday's 5-2 thrashing by Scunthorpe United.
"It's been a while since I played in front of any fans and this was obviously my first time in front of the Harrogate supporters," Martin said.
"It felt a bit of a shock coming out, I almost forgot that they were going to be there but it was a nice reception and nice to get them back in. It definitely helped my game. The atmosphere and that noise in the background helps you, it makes it a little bit more intense for myself and the players.
"There are points in the game where you might lose the ball or the other team is having a good spell for five or 10 minutes and when the crowd gets behind you, especially for myself, it gives you that little edge and makes you want to track back and win the ball and get it back."
For all their positive play, Town never really looked like scoring and were eventually undone by Jamille Matt's close-range finish from Nicky Cadden's 57th-minute cross.
And, while Martin feels that the Sulphurites were unfortunate to finish up empty-handed, he conceded that they were ultimately punished from not capitalising on some promising attacking positions.
"I thought that we were a bit unlucky not to get a result," the 29-year-old added.
"I thought we played well, it's a bit disheartening when you play well and lose the game. I thought we were in the game all the way through, we probably should have nicked something.
"We maybe created the more dangerous openings, but this is League Two and if you don't finish your chances, teams will punish you."
Clear-cut openings were few and far between, though Martin saw one late strike from just outside the Rovers box deflected just over the cross-bar.
Of his only other real chance to get on the score-sheet, he said: "The defender has helped the cross on to me. It's come to me and I thought I should take a touch and then try and strike it but the defender has got there quick.
"Thinking back, maybe I should have hit it first time, but you don't have time to think, so I just did what I thought at the time."
The match could perhaps have unfolded rather differently had referee Marc Edwards seen fit to blow his whistle when Brendan Kiernan was pulled down by Rovers' last man and denied a clear run in on goal after 27 minutes.
Martin had as good a view as anyone of the incident and is adamant that a foul should have been awarded.
"From where I was, it looked like a penalty," he added.
"Brendan has tried to go through and has been pulled down. I thought it was a foul."