Non-League: Harrogate boss sets his players a play-off challenge

Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver.
Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver.
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SIMON WEAVER has challenged his Harrogate Town side to propel themselves into play-off contention in the run to the turn of the year.

After a start to the season which could best be described as underwhelming, at worst rank bad, Town were showing discernible signs of consistency with a run of six wins in eight matches, only to suffer a jolt at the weekend.

It was provided by derby rivals Bradford Park Avenue, who secured a seasonal double with a 2-0 win at the CNG Stadium, thanks to goals from ex-Harrogate powerhouse forward Chib Chilaka and Danny Frost.

It leaves Town with much work to do in mid-table, with just five wins in 20 Vanarama North matches leaving them with plenty to do if they are going to realise their upwardly-mobile ambitions at the start of the season, with many bookies backing them for a big season before a ball was kicked after a considerable recruitment drive in the close-season.

Weaver is the first to acknowledge that his side have plenty to do and says he will only start thinking about a potential play-off push if they string a few more wins together.

With a festive double-header against local rivals Guiseley and an encounter at leaders Barrow on December 28, it is very much a case of easier said than done.

Weaver, whose side switch emphasis to FA Trophy business on Saturday when they travel to FC United of Manchester, said: “It is tough this year and we are one of probably 10 teams who have spent similar amounts below Barrow.

“We don’t have any God-given right to be in that leading pack. All the injuries did set us back in the early part of the season.

“For me, we need a couple more wins before we can think seriously about the play-offs.

But our ambition is to be there and we have an ambitious squad and if we can get into that top eight or nine around that New Year mark, that will represent a good recovery from where we have been.”

One side who are firmly established as a firm promotion candidate for yet another season are second-placed Guiseley, who according to manager Mark Bower produced a faultless performance in triumphing 3-0 at Stockport County at the weekend.

The only downer was the dismissal of Shane Killock for the Lions, although the blow has been softened by the return of Danny Lowe and Wayne Brooksby ahead of this weekend’s FA Trophy clash with Chorley.

Bower said: “It is going to be difficult picking a team and a difficult one to pick.

“But they are the headaches you want.”

On his side’s stunning performance against the Hatters, he added: “We are playing really well at the minute and our performances have been very, very good. We are controlling games.

“If you look at the games going in our net, we have been unfortunate with the majority which are going in and we look like scoring at the other end.

“To be fair, it could have been more than three goals at Stockport.”

Philosophical about Killock’s dismissal at the start of the second half, the Lions boss added: “These days, if you lunge into these tackles as Killa did, you are always running the risk of getting a red card.

“In fairness to him, the other lad went in exactly the same and there’s an argument that each player is looking after themselves.

“I cannot see how you can say which one has been reckless and committing dangerous play and the other one is not.

“Both went into the challenge in a similar fashion.

“For us to get a red card and them to get nothing is the way it fell for us.

“But we dug in really well and kept a good shape about us and you could see the experience in the team.”

Action tonight sees Paul Marshall’s Tadcaster Albion welcome ninth-placed Cleethorpes Town in the NCEL Premier Division.

The Brewers will move 10 points clear of Shaw Lane Aquaforce with victory, although the Barnsley-based outfit will have two games in hand on their rivals.

In the Evo-Stik First Division North, Brighouse Town make the trip to the north-east to face Spennymoor.

Frickley Athletic welcome Hemsworth MW in a derby encounter in the last eight of the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Cup, with the winners progressing to the semi-finals of the competition.

The Blues have reached the final in the past three seasons, winning the competition at Sheffield’s expense in 2012-13 and losing to Athersley Rec and Worksop Town respectively in 2013-14 and 2011-12.