The White Stuff: Town hurt by lack of forward fire-power

Harrogate Town's Chris Hall
Harrogate Town's Chris Hall

Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town need a bona fide goal-machine to propel them towards the play-offs. But after a roaring start, has star man Chris Hall lost his sparkle?

When Chris Hall signed for Harrogate Town in June, boss Simon Weaver finally believed he had the man to light up the league.

The imposing targetman had an impressive pedigree from past stints at Stalybridge Celtic and Bradford Park Avenue. And his destruction of various youth teams in pre-season made the deal look every bit as shrewd as Weaver imagined.

“The challenge for us is to switch him on. He’s an intelligent footballer who doesn’t want a boring time,” said the boss when Hall joined.

Town’s problem is, they have flicked the switch but its fuse has blown.

The number nine has cut a frustrated figure up front in recent weeks and his goalscoring tally has flattered to deceive.

No matter how well a side plays or how attractive they look, consistency of results comes hand in hand with an in-form striker.

Town have not struggled to score goals this season. With 44 strikes, they are third to only Altrincham and Boston United’s tally.

But strikers Hall, Liam Hardy and Ashley Worsfold have just 18 goals between them and their lack of fire-power has cost Town in tight matches. Hall’s goal in Saturday’s win only emphasised the past failings to dig the team out of trouble in close, gritty encounters.

Weaver’s men have failed to score in seven of their nine league defeats, and the same number of the losses have fallen by a one-goal margin.

While Hall has an intelligent brain, his off-the-ball movement lacks the subtlety of top Skrill North strikers.

His physical presence has given the side a focal point, but I fear it goes against what Weaver has tried to create over the last two years.

It confuses the intended passing brand, much to the same as the likes of Andy Carroll or Peter Crouch have done for the national side in the past.

In 45 minutes last Wednesday, Harrogate Railway’s Nathan Cartman naturally fitted into Town’s system, hovering on the line of the defence. His dual-registration could be an astute move.

The earlier 45 minutes, Hall looked unconfident and he spurned the one chance that fell his way.

Ashley Worsfold has potential but injuries have controlled his season.

Hardy equally has a knack for goals, but when his hot streak chilled he was shunted onto the wing.

Most of Town’s rivals have a forward at the top end of the scoring chart.

North Ferriby United (Anthony Wilson and Nathan Jarman) and Altincham (James Walshaw and Damian Reeves) both have two in double figures, three of those players were new signings in the summer.

Hall must join that list and start bulging the net regularly if the club want to launch a late run for the play-off spots this season.

It was at this stage last season Town snapped up prolific striker Dominic Knowles.

If Hall fails to turn on the switch in the next couple weeks, Town’s season could again hinge on whether Weaver can pluck out another January gem.

PS: It was brilliant to see electric atmospheres at two games last week. Town’s gamble to arrange the Leeds United friendly with an already injury-stricken squad paid off greatly. Darlington 1883’s visit to Station View was a much-needed pay-day for cash-strapped Railway. Let’s hope the turnstiles can continue to swing.