The White Stuff: Harrogate Town need five wins for Skrill North play-offs place

NADV 1402223AM1 H'gate Town V Boston United. (1402223AM1)
NADV 1402223AM1 H'gate Town V Boston United. (1402223AM1)

Here we are. The part of the marathon when the leaders crank up the pace in the final corner, and the stragglers take on that last ounce of energy to save their race.

For Harrogate Town, they approach that final mile vying for bronze and in need of a final surge to stave off the mini group of chasers that have formed.

With seven Skrill North fixtures remaining, Simon Weaver has the best chance of reaching the play-offs from his four-year stint in charge.

Last season’s efforts hit a stumbling block at this time of year, when, hurt by the loss of York City loanee Tom Platt and Burton Albion bound striker Dominic Knowles, Town were cast adrift playing catch-up.

While, the fixture backlog has been kinder this year due to the perfection of the CNG Stadium pitch, the drop off in results must not happen again.

Anton Brown’s late equaliser in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Colwyn Bay could prove a vital gain. But it was two points dropped more than one gained, especially given Town’s strong home results this season.

In February, I said Town had to win six of their next nine matches to set themselves up to hit 73 points this season. Taking out the rearranged trip to Guiseley (to be played on April 15), Town claimed 15 points from the tricky eight-game period with four wins, three draws and one narrow defeat away to Colwyn. A win against Guiseley on April 15 would put them bang on target.

Now sitting on 58 points, Town must win five matches out of the next seven league matches to reach that magical 73.

They are more than capable of achieving that, not least, because of the manner of their performances in 2014. Revitalised Chris Hall has become the revered striker Town hoped when signing him, Matt Heath has strengthened the back-line and Dan Clayton and Joe Ironside’s arrivals have added a quality depth.

But Weaver’s men must improve their away form and results against mid-table outfits to nail down a top five spot.

In 13 games against the top eight sides this season, Town have collected 29 points. Compare that to the 19 matches played against teams not in the top or bottom five, where only 24 points have been collected.

That shows Town’s fallibility against mid-table opposition and I can’t pin down why the team struggle so much in those games.

Are Town expecting to win and then take their foot of the gas? Are teams harder to break down and less likely to throw bodies forward? Or do these sides raise their game knowing they are up against promotion candidates?

Five of the remaining seven teams to play (Gloucester City, Leamington, Guiseley, Barrow and Stockport County) lie in that 12-team mid-table mini-league.

Away from home, Town have collected just seven wins from 17 matches. With four journeys to come, including title hopefuls North Ferriby, local rivals Guiseley and fallen giants Stockport County on the final day, how Town perform away in the next few weeks will determine their season.

With their three games in hand, Altrincham look certain play-off material. Equally Guiseley’s late surge and games in hand make them favourites for a top five place. Given that the title race losers (either North Ferriby or AFC Telford) are guaranteed a spot it leaves Town in a precarious position vying for the final spot.

But should they get five wins from seven, they would be left cursing their luck if they’re not in the four-way shootout.

Can Town make the play-offs? What do you think? Get involved with the debate.