Simon Weaver says it 'doesn't get much bigger' for Harrogate Town than a last-gasp FA Cup win away at Portsmouth FC

When it comes to making FA Cup history, causing a significant upset with a dramatic stoppage-time winner might just be the ultimate way to go about it.

Sunday, 5th December 2021, 9:36 am
Simon Weaver celebrates Harrogate Town's FA Cup second round victory at Portsmouth FC with the club's travelling support. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

And that is exactly what Harrogate Town did at Portsmouth on Saturday, Jack Diamond netting from almost the last kick of the game to seal a 2-1 success and send the Sulphurites into the competition's third-round for the first time in their 107-year existence.

Manager Simon Weaver has masterminded a string of momentous achievements during recent seasons - including two historic Wembley triumphs in the space of 12 months - but he insists that it "doesn't get much bigger" than turning over the 2008 FA Cup winners in their own back yard.

"In terms of moments it's got to be right up there for us. We're all ecstatic," he said.

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Jack Diamond stretches to net Town's stoppage-time winner at Fratton Park.

"During my time at the club, we have loved big occasions and they don't get much bigger than beating Portsmouth away from home in the FA Cup in the dying seconds.

"I thought we deserved the win. We showed great intensity off the ball. We passed it well, there were a lot of short passes because people were hungry to get on the ball and we were rapid on the break.

"I said to the lads, tongue-in-cheek, 'how come we didn't finish that off before?'. We counter-attacked at pace, caused them problems, and when we get the ball down and play and it's slick, it just shows you what we can achieve."

What League Two Town did achieve at Fratton Park was made all the more impressive by the fact that they did so with an injury-hit squad.

They headed to Hampshire with just four recognised defenders available for selection and were only able to name four substitutes compared to League One Pompey's nine.

Yet, the Sulphurites were still able to record a third win of a four-game unbeaten run on the road, something Weaver felt showed the strength of character within his dressing room.

"It's brilliant," he added. "We only had three outfield players on the bench today. We are stretched at the minute, but I think it is testament to the character of the players. They are absolutely superb. They are doing tremendous things for the club.

"You want lads to be able to turn up at arenas like this, and it is a new level, and expect and think that they can come away with a result.

"We believed that we could get a result and we did it in the right manner. We showed that we can play football and there's a decent football club in North Yorkshire with Harrogate Town - and we try to keep on building it."

Luke Armstrong handed Town a 44th-minute lead with a confident curling finish, though Portsmouth levelled barely 60 seconds later when Ellis Harrison slotted home.

Undeterred by that instant set-back, the visitors went on to create a series of good openings to re-claim the ascendancy during the second period, before Sunderland loanee Diamond eventually sealed their progress by poking home Alex Pattison's low left-wing cross.

"It was disappointing to concede straight after we scored but as soon as we came in the changing room [at half-time] we said 'don't dwell on it because it could damage the next 45' and we started very brightly after the interval and gradually wore them down," Weaver added.

"Although they had attacks, when the game gets stretched later on and people become tired, I still fancied us to have a moment, and fortunately we did.

"Every player deserves a lot of praise after that performance, but there are certain players who have played for this club for years and they keep on getting better, so I want some of what they are eating for breakfast. And then we've got the new influx who have added a bit of dynamism as well.

"At the minute, we look pretty structured. We've got big games coming thick and fast but when you're getting good results like this then it is just the tonic."