Wrexham AFC target Luke Armstrong may well have played his last game for Harrogate Town, with January exit on the cards
The wantaway striker, who saw a transfer deadline day move to Wrexham collapse earlier this season, was absent from the Sulphurites’ match-day squad for Saturday’s League Two clash with Swindon, despite being fit and available for selection.
After the match, which Town drew 1-1 to end a run of five consecutive home defeats, manager Simon Weaver confirmed to the Harrogate Advertiser that, moving forwards, he will prioritise game-time for “players who are going to be available from January onwards.”
So, with Armstrong’s departure seemingly inevitable once the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year, it would appear likely that Sam Folarin, Josh March and Jack Muldoon will be the men tasked with leading the line for the foreseeable future.
“There’s no injury. It was me, I pulled Luke into my office at training on Friday and I just said ‘with six weeks to go until the transfer window, we know what happened last window’,” Weaver explained.
"Obviously he wants to get his move, so I just want to concentrate on playing the players that are going to be available from January onwards.
"I don’t want to be in a situation in January where I go ‘now I need you’. I think that’s fair enough and Luke said that it’s fair enough.
"But he did say he’d give 100 percent if called upon, so that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be a fall-out, it was just a matter of fact conversation.”
Town agreed a deal to sell last season’s leading goal-scorer to League Two rivals Wrexham on the final day of the summer window, only for that move to collapse due to the Welsh outfit failing to submit paperwork relevant to his registration in sufficient time.
The Red Dragons subsequently abandoned plans to appeal the Football League’s decision on the matter, meaning that Armstrong had to say put at Harrogate until at least January.
Weaver immediately welcomed the former Middlesbrough forward back into the fold and he has gone on to make 10 appearances since his hopes of making the switch to North Wales were dashed.
But he has been unable to hit the heights he reached so consistently in previous seasons, and failed to score a single goal during those games.
Asked if the uncertainty regarding Armstrong’s future has been any kind of a hindrance or distraction, Weaver replied: "I think that this happens at all football clubs in all transfer windows and we have found a way of getting good results.
"Sam [Folarin] has turned into a good centre-forward, he is a threat against any team. Jack Muldoon has had another rebirth and Josh March is a good player to come back – and I want those lads to feel good about their games and representing the club.
"As I have said, Luke did agree to give 100 percent if the circumstances dictate, but I just want to solely focus on those players right now.”
Armstrong initially signed for Harrogate from Salford City in the summer of 2021.
He scored 14 times in his first season at Wetherby Road and went on to enjoy an even better year in front of goal last term, finding the net on 16 occasions as he started every single one of Town’s 46 League Two fixtures
The former Middlesbrough forward bagged his first and only goal of the current campaign during August’s 2-0 home win over Morecambe, converting a 20th-minute penalty.
But that strike only came after he missed Town’s opening two matches of 2023/24 having said that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play amidst a flurry of transfer bids lodged by League One and Two sides on the eve of the new season.
Despite still having two years to run on his contract, Armstrong was offered a three-year deal on improved terms, but could not be persuaded to sign it prior to agreeing to join Wrexham.
In total, he has made 116 competitive appearances for the club to date, scoring 31 times and contributing 13 assists.