Why Simon Weaver won't risk his Harrogate Town players in friendlies before National League play-offs

Simon Weaver has confirmed that Harrogate Town will not play any friendlies before their National League play-off semi-final, but insists that his squad will be as “prepared as we can be.”

By Rhys Howell
Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 8:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 8:50 pm
Harrogate Town players training at the CNG Stadium. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Wetherby Road outfit, who finished 2019/20 second behind champions Barrow, last week turned down the opportunity to play Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic in a behind-closed doors match at Loughborough University.

Weaver revealed that he reluctantly said no to the offer to take on the Bhoys because he felt that the risk of injury to members of his team was too great with arguably the biggest game in the club’s history just around the corner.

And with their clash with the winners of the eliminator tie between Boreham Wood and FC Halifax Town now less than two weeks away, the Harrogate boss has gone into further detail regarding his decision not to organise any warm-up fixtures.

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Simon Weaver gets his point across.

Asked whether he was concerned that his side would be heading into their game on July 25 lacking in sharpness compared to their play-off rivals, he replied: “I certainly think that they’ll have less of an edge over us than they would if they were coming up against a team missing key players because they’d picked up injuries in a friendly game.

“If you look at Notts County, for example, they have a squad of 24. They’ve just about got two players for each position. We have a much smaller squad and don’t have the same options.

“It’s too big a risk for us with the size of our squad and because we only have four defenders for the play-offs."

Although Town won't engage another club for a friendly, Weaver is adamant that the in-house work they are undertaking will ensure that his players are more-than-ready for the challenges ahead.

George Thomson and Jon Stead enjoy a spot of head tennis.

His squad have been put through a couple of weeks of gruelling fitness sessions before switching their focus to the footballing side of things.

“We’ve been playing games of eight versus eight and have progressed to a 10 versus nine match using the full pitch.

“On Saturday, we’ll play 90 minutes of 10 versus 10. It will be like a dress rehearsal for the game the following weekend, which will provide a real test for the group.

"It is better than going up against another team where each player might only get 45 before you have to give someone else a run. Everybody is getting a full game under their belts.

Mark Beck is closing in on a return to fitness.

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, 90 minutes is 90 minutes. We’ll be as prepared as we can be.”

Weaver’s biggest concern is at the back with just four recognised defenders currently on the Town books, though midfielders Joe Leesley and Alex Bradley have experience of operating in the full-back positions.

At the other end of the field, Town have been handed a boost by Mark Beck.

The towering frontman has been plagued by a troublesome hamstring issue since before Christmas, but is progressing well in training having begun running again earlier this month.

Such is his progress, the 26-year-old is expected to be fit enough to play in Town's in-house 10-a-side fixture on Saturday.