Settled squad and 'special bond' carry Harrogate Town to the verge of Football League
For a club of the size of Harrogate Town to be one victory away from the Football League is an achievement in itself.
The Wetherby Road outfit finished mid-table in the sixth tier of English football as recently as 2017, but are now looking forward to a Wembley play-off final against Notts County next weekend.
What makes their journey all the more special, according to captain Josh Falkingham, is that the majority of players who led Town out of National League North two years ago are still doing the business in black and yellow to this day.
Ten members of the squad who won Saturday’s National League play-off semi-final clash with Boreham Wood were part of Simon Weaver’s match-day 16 when Harrogate beat Brackley to clinch their place in the top tier of the non-league pyramid back in May 2018.
The bond that has been forged within the Town dressing room over the last three years has undeniably helped fuel their progress. It also means that their achievements thus far taste all the sweeter for those involved.
What’s better than winning games of football? Winning them alongside your mates, in Falkingham’s opinion.
“Where we’ve come from, together as well – there’s a lot of us who got brought into the club three years ago – so to do it with the special bond that we’ve got within the group, what a feeling,” he said after his team’s 1-0 victory at the CNG Stadium.
“It’s a fantastic feeling and this is a great win that I felt we really deserved, to be honest.
“We all know our roles, and that’s what has got us here, 100 per cent.
“No matter who we’re playing against, pre-season friendly or semi-final of a play-off, we’ll always play our way and it just goes to show that when you stick to something that you believe in, then results will happen.
“We’re one game away from achieving something a lot bigger than just playing at Wembley.”
Town goalkeeper James Belshaw echoed his captain's sentiments.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to do this with a lot of your closest mates," he said.
"A lot of kids have that dream and want to play at Wembley and now it's a reality.
"It's a massive, massive day for the club, for us [players] involved and all the fans."
Harrogate Town team v Brackley, May 13, 2018: Belshaw; Fallowfield, McCombe, Burrell, Parker; Thomson, Emmett (Agnew 90), Falkingham, Leesley; Knowles, Beck (Wright 12 (Kerry 45)). Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Kitching.
Harrogate Town team v Boreham Wood, July 25, 2020: Belshaw; Fallowfield, Smith, Hall, Burrell; Thomson (Emmett 80), Kerry, Falkingham, Diamond; Muldoon (Beck 90), Martin (Stead 62). Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Leesley, Harratt. *Players in bold named in both squads.