WHISPER it gently, but the luck may be beginning to turn for Harrogate Town.
Rated among the bookies favourites for Vanarama North promotion before a ball was kicked, Town – who brought in the likes of James Walshaw, David McGurk and Ryan Kendall in a busy close season when they made a number of marquee signings – suffered a reality check in the early weeks of the season.
Five games in and just two points had been garnered with no wins, with the number of players on the sidelines adding to the early gloom.
But over the past fortnight, players have started to come back into contention and some key ones at that, including James Speight, Ryan Kendall, Jonathan Margetts, Ashley Worsfold. Leigh Franks and Adam Nowakowski.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the club’s upturn in the past three matches where they are unbeaten and taken seven points from nine has dovetailed with the return of several players.
A bit of good fortune also has not gone amiss with midweek opponents Stalybridge hitting the post and seeing an effort cleared off the line, as Town managed to claim a third successive clean sheet, but more importantly three valuable points.
Assistant-boss John McDermott said: “At times this season we have had eight players out who might have been in our starting line-up and three have been strikers who would have played.
“Take that number of players out of any team and it is going to be difficult and we have missed some big players.
“We have had to stick in there and we have also had some tough games against teams who are probably fancied to be in the play-offs or at least winning. We have dug in deep and gradually we are getting players back and we are just starting to pick up, even those some of the players are not as match fit as you would like them to be.
“But we are getting there and we have kept clean sheets and we are also scoring goals and creating chances and the main thing is we are picking points up and getting to where we want to be.
“For me, it is where you end up and not where you are now.
“We are getting a bit of luck too in both boxes, but at the end of the day, you make your own luck.
“We are also seeing one or two other teams picking up injuries now too and maybe they will drop down a bit.”
While tomorrow’s home game with early strugglers Solihull Motors looks decent on paper for 16th-placed Town, McDermott is not fooled.
He added: “They are another team who were well-fancied, but who find themselves third from bottom.
“They were fancied to either win it or be in the play-offs. But it is not going to be easy, we were fancied and we have been down there.”
Guiseley, who were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Colwyn Bay in midweek, hit the road to Hednesford, seeking to carry on from where they left off on their travels last weekend at Brackley where they prevailed 3-0.
Boss Mark Bower said: “Hednesford had a good result on Tuesday and it is always a difficult place to go and they have a certain style of playing.
“I am sure they will look at the way they played us last year as they beat us twice and look to replicate that.
“But we have started a little run again and go there with confidence.”
Bradford Park Avenue visit Lowestoft Town and in the Conference, second-placed FC Halifax go to Forest Green.
IT is deja vu time for Ossett Albion according to manager Richard Tracey.
The Dimple Wells outfit host north-west opposition with more resources in the FA Cup tomorrow for the second time in 12 months, with Tracey hoping for a different outcome against opponents Droylsden.
Tracey said:“It is a toughie, but we will give it a good shot.
“Last year, we came up against a heavily invested North West Counties side in Runcorn and this year we face a side who have also invested in Droylsden.
“We are in different worlds with some clubs. We played Salford City on Tuesday and there are rumours that two of their players individually earn more than our whole collective squad and staff.
“We will have a go. Two years ago, we beat Hinckley and North Ferriby and lost to Bradford Park Avenue in the final qualifier before they drew Doncaster away in the first round.
“For us, as a club, every penny is essential. We are run on a tight ship, but the thing I think is that we will be around forever.”
Across town, Ossett Town are aiming to build on their outstanding midweek win over Scarborough in their clash at Marine, with John Reed hoping the romance of the cup looks kindly on his side.
Reed said: “It is a tough game, but they are not in great shape and hopefully we can go there and get them.
“We are not going to go there, fearing them and hopefully we will come back with a result.
“I have been to the first round twice with Harrogate and it is a magnificent competition for non-league teams.
“It really used to get me going as a player and certainly does as a manager.”
“It is great day and if we can get through it, that is another £3,000 prize money and we would love to get a home draw in the next round and everyone dreams of trying to get into that first round and get a league club and we are now different.”
In the NCEL Premier, Garforth, Glasshoughton and Thackley welcome Nostell, Athersley Recreation and Pickering respectively.
Liversedge visit Barton Town and Tadcaster head to Handsworth. Albion Sports visit Heanor.
In Division One, Hemsworth, AFC Emley and Pontefract Colls visit Bottesford, Lincoln Moorlands and Teversal.
Yorkshire Amatuer, Eccleshill and Selby host AFC Mansfield, Worsbrough Bridge and Hall Road Rangers.
FRICKLEY ATHLETIC boss Karl Rose insists FA Cup opponents Farsley are favourites in tomorrow’s first qualifying round derby at Throstle Nest – despite residing a division below them.
The Blues are down in the dumps and in search of a cup tonic after a hefty 4-0 loss at Buxton on Tuesday, which leaves them propping up the Premier Division after eight games.
Farsley, by contrast, are at the business end of the First Division North and Rose says his side are playing for pride, not just for themselves, but everyone connected with the club tomorrow.
On the welcome distraction of cup business, Rose said: “We are looking forward to it and it is a break from the league toils.
“It’s a local derby and we know they are flying, are a good side and are used to winning.
“They were unlucky in just missing out on the play-offs last year and we go there in no doubt we are going up against a quality side.
“They have quality players with a bigger budget than us and are looking to strive on.
“For us, it’s a one-off and I would say they are favourites. But for us, we have got to put what happened on Tuesday right.
“We are fragile and leaked goals are affecting us too much and on Saturday, it is blood, guts and thunder and we need to put bodies on the line as it’s the FA Cup.
“We are looking to get some fight back, regardless of the result. We have to show the fighting spirit that is Frickley.”
With funds tight at Frickley, Rose is also the first to acknowledge the importance of progress to boost coffers at the South Elmsall-based club.
He added: “For a club that fights for every penny like Frickley, the cup is terrific.
“As much as winning, a lot of it with the cup is about money and with the money you get through progressing, for a club like Frickley, you can’t describe how big it is in terms of trying to take the club forward.
“It is an opportunity for us to give something back and put some money in to take the pressure off.
“We know that as a players and management staff and we don’t need to tell everyone that. The board are trying to bring money in every single day and we want to help them keep the wolves from the door.
“It’s a massive, massive game.”
Elsewhere in the cup, Brighouse welcome Ashton United and Harrogate Rail host Clitheroe. Scarborough and Whitby head to Ashington and Shildon.
In the First Division South, Goole entertain Stocksbridge Park Steels.