Harrogate Town opinion: The numbers don't lie, Sulphurites' recent run is relegation form

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.

By Rhys Howell
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 10:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 7:52 pm
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton, left, and his daughter, Molly, outside the EnviroVent Stadium.
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton, left, and his daughter, Molly, outside the EnviroVent Stadium.

Cast your mind back to just over three months ago on Saturday, October 9. Harrogate Town had just thrashed bottom club Scunthorpe United 6-1 at Wetherby Road and were sitting proudly one point off top spot with 22 points from eleven games.

Now, let this sink in: this was the Sulphurites' last home win in League Two.

Following the heavy loss to Newport in South Wales on Saturday, and we’ll come to that later, Simon Weaver's men now find themselves a full 23 points behind runaway leaders Forest Green Rovers in 14th place.

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Harrogate Town midfielder Brahima Diarra cuts a dejected figure as Newport County celebrate one of their four goals during Saturday's League Two clash at Rodney Parade. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Recent statistics don’t look at all good. The team is on a run that has seen them earn one point in six home fixtures, the last four all ending in defeat. The goals are also starting to dry up, with a return of three in the last five matches, during which we’ve gained one point.

In our 12 league outings since that glorious October day, Town have lost eight, drawn two and won two, picking up a paltry total of eight points. During that very same period, the bottom two clubs Oldham and Scunthorpe have picked up ten and 12 points respectively.

There are a few caveats to take into account here. The last five games have all been against clubs in the top six. It’s been five weeks since we last contested a home league match and we didn’t play in the league at all for a month during this Covid-dominated winter.

The squad has been wafer thin, often with only three outfield substitutes to choose from. We’ve also won three cup matches over this period.

Even so, it’s relegation form by any other measure and we have to be very thankful for the flying start we were all able to enjoy during the first couple of months of the season.

Perhaps, most worryingly, the abject 4-0 loss to Newport County was a contender for the worst, most uncharacteristic Harrogate performance I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ to witness.

The one thing you can normally bank on with Town is a team organisation and willingness to close their opponents down, even with the odd error at the back.

Here at a deserted Rodney Parade, the defence and covering midfield were as porous as the breached Wembley access gates at the Euro 2020 final last July.

Time after time, Newport ran straight through the centre of our loose formation far too easily. In contrast, you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between the home formation in front of their own goal.

It was the second four-goal defeat in a row, both of them without Connor Hall in the centre of defence, and the danger signs are there for all to see.

With rock-bottom Oldham due in town this week, it’s a chance for Town to put three precious points on the board, but they’ll need to be a lot better defensively against a team that unbelievably put five past Forest Green Rovers recently. Admittedly, they did also concede five in the process.

The fixture in South Wales was played behind closed doors due to the Welsh Government’s current public health measures in the face of Omicron. It was certainly bad timing for Town fans with the measures being eased this weekend as cases drop rapidly in Wales.

One club who will be pleased with the situation easing are Chester City. Having staged two home matches over the Christmas period against AFC Fylde and AFC Telford, both with fans in attendance, they received notice of potential Coronavirus regulations breaches from North Wales Police and the local council.

The warning went on to say that if they continued to play home fixtures with crowds they could face enforcement action.

"But isn’t Chester in England, where there are no restrictions on sporting events?" I hear you say.

Well yes, it is, but the football ground isn’t. Or to be more precise, after leaving your car in the matchday car-park directly outside the ground in Chester, England, you then find yourself crossing the Welsh border to enter the turnstiles in order to watch the match.

I kid you not.