View From the Press Box: Harrogate Town deserved another shot at Portsmouth

Harrogate Advertiser sports editor Rhys Howell has his say on the latest goings-on at Harrogate Town.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 9:42 am
Updated Friday, 15th November 2019, 9:43 am
Ryan Fallowfield in action during Harrogate Town's FA Cup loss to Portsmouth. Picture: Matt Kirkham

I have replayed Monday night’s FA Cup showdown with Portsmouth over and over in my head this week and tried to work out whether I need to find some perspective.

I’ve been covering Harrogate Town for quite a while now and, while I am supposed to be impartial in my role as a journalist, I’d by lying if I said that I hadn’t developed a fondness for the club.

My initial reaction to the Pompey game was that Simon Weaver and his players deserved more than what they ended up with.

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I’ve questioned whether I’m looking at this with yellow and black tinted spectacles and whether I’m getting caught up in the notion of the plucky underdogs being hard done to, but on reflection I’m pretty confident that my initial assessment is accurate.

First-half, Town were the better side. They started brightly and with really good intensity and obviously scoring after seven minutes didn’t do them any harm.

They looked good value for their lead and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Pompey’s equaliser came out of the blue and against the run of play.

Town were again in the ascendancy when Ronan Curtis smashed in the visitors’ second, and I really don’t believe that the home team deserved to be trailing at the break.

The delayed kick-off can’t have done either side any favours, but it seemed to affect Kenny Jackett’s charges far more than it did their hosts.

The pitch played its part without a doubt. Christian Burgess is an accomplished League One centre-half but twice missed his kick in the opening minutes, his mistakes proving costly.

The away defence looked all over the place at times and ex-Harrogate goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray voiced his displeasure at what he was seeing on a couple of occasions.

Mark Beck suggested post-match that maybe Pompey weren’t prepared for how good Town were. He wondered if 2008 FA Cup winners had underestimated their opponents.

Whether that was the case or not, the visitors certainly struggled early doors.

Despite this, they did however score two excellent goals and that ultimately proved to be the difference on the night.

In the second period, I think Portsmouth looked pretty comfortable at 2-1 and they could have added to their lead. But they didn’t, and as a result they had to withstand some pressure during the closing stages.

If Town had got an equaliser I don’t think the League One outfit could have had too many complaints, however if I’ve got one criticism of Weaver’s men it is that they didn’t really go for it in the closing stages.

They had a go, of course, but weren't able to build up enough of a head of steam to really launch a full-throttle assault on the away goal.

Pompey had to defend their box well, though they were never really clinging on for dear life.

That said, I still feel that Town did enough to have forced a replay, though football isn’t always fair and, as Irving Weaver reflected post-match, the reality is that, despite playing so well, they are out of the competition.

Nevertheless, Weaver and his players and everyone connected with the club should be proud of their performance.

Beck and skipper Josh Falkingham were absolutely superb on the night and James Belshaw also excelled. If scouts from further up the footballing pyramid weren't alerted to the potential of some those currently plying their trade at Wetherby Road, then I'd be surprised.

The hope has to be that they can reach similar levels at Bromley on Saturday and use that Portsmouth performance as a catalyst for another run of results in the National League.

It's much easier said than done, but if they can replicate something like what we saw against Pompey when they visit the table-topping Ravens then I'm confident they'll come away with a result.

Fingers crossed there is no FA Cup hangover this weekend and supporters aren't left to rue an 'after the Lord Mayor's show'-type display.