The White Stuff: Brendon Daniels exit a hammerblow to Harrogate Town but not end of world
Sports editor Ed White ponders the damage Brendon Daniels' exit will have on Harrogate Town, and the importance of keeping save hands Peter Crook.
End of season activity has been an evolving process at Harrogate Town.
There have been the years of major axe wielding, and others of an early rush to announce big name signings. Each one has its own twist, and the summer of 2016 looks no different.
Similar to last season, Town boss Simon Weaver has retained a strong core of his squad, which should come as no surprise following the excellent campaign of 2015/16. However, Town must find consistent goals across the park if they are to build on that foundation next season and the loss of hitman Brendon Daniels to what is sure to be their main rivals for topspot will have been a hammerblow to Weaver, who had entrusted the 23-year-old with freedom on the left throughout the campaign.
Keeping Daniels - and England C teammate, goalkeeper Peter Crook for that matter- will have been priority number one over the summer. To achieve a 50 per cent strike rate is not a bad return, but it does set Town back on the early ambitions to battle for the title again next year.
Daniels had looked destined to move up, if at all. But the lure of a three-year contract will see him remain at National League North level for another year at least.
The former Crewe Alexandra player has a ball-striking technique not associated with the non league game but positionally and defensively, there are weaknesses to his game.
If he did not fire, Town had often been left carrying their wingman, hoping for that probability of producing a moment of inspiration that would light up the CNG.
Fylde have been bold in their approach, and their main man, Danny Rowe had already been nailed down to an extended stay before the end of the current campaign. There are obvious questions to ask if Daniels could have been offered similar at the CNG Stadium, harbouring a good sell-on value.
It would have been such a gamble. Bumper contracts are a brave business in lower league football. You only need to look at York City to see the damage it can cause.
There is a certain irony that he ended up moving to the team that had his number in both play-off legs and it will be interesting to note whether he can continue his form when taken away from some free-kick situations and given other roles.
Daniels’ exit certainly does not create doom and gloom for Town ahead of their switch to a 3G surface.
The signings of Wayne Brooksby and John Paul Pittman will be natural replacements for Daniels, and omitted targetman Paul Clayton.
The defensive quarters are already looking strong, and locking down Crook’s new deal is a sweetener in Daniels’ exit.
Crook is a wonderful goalkeeper. He provides a calmness in collecting the high ball into the box which gives defences so much confidence. As a last line of defence, his reaction stops are as good as former Town man Craig MacGillivray who moved on to Walsall two years ago.
His distribution has also had a marked improvement. Crook has always had the best ability of all semi-professional keepers to pick out a teammate from ball in hand but his kicking was an issue. He seems to have worked on it, and reaped the reward.
There is no wonder league scouts made appearances at the CNG to watch him throughout the season. I would be surprised if he never made a step into the professional game and staying at Town instead of taking up a scholarship in the USA last season has helped garner his reputation.
There is still a small worry over his judgement off his line but to have him between the sticks next season, and Danny Ellis and Simon Ainge in front, Town have certainly got a basis to work from.
Whether they can replace Daniels’ goals, and more importantly, match-saving moments, will determine if this year’s play-off run was a stepping stone or a flash in a pan.