The Verdict - Comeback kid George Thomson proves himself Harrogate Town’s man of the moment in Wembley play-off final triumph
A little over half an hour later, the 28-year-old right-winger had scored one and set-up another, paving the way for a 3-1 victory over Notts County and promotion to League Two.
Thomson’s efforts were by no means the sole reason for Town’s success on the day, though his contribution certainly cannot be underestimated.
It was very much a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man and a good player delivering on the big stage - just as his manager sensed he was ready to do.
“He’s just a touch of class. I said to him before the game ‘it’s your time, Thommo’,” Weaver revealed.
“He’s been purring, he’s got that velvet touch, and the awareness coming out of tight areas.
“He has just really grown as a player and in belief and he’s probably secure in the knowledge that he’s going to play.
“He’s top of the fitness group, he’s amazingly fit but also has that ability to go and get the ball and today he’s done the business.” The odds on Thomson emerging as Harrogate’s Wembley hero would have been pretty long at the start of 2019/20.
Struggling at the wrong end of the table during the opening weeks of the campaign, Town seemed more likely to be battling for survival than promotion, and the former FC United of Manchester attacker couldn’t even make it as far as the substitutes’ bench.
Once he did win his place back he made sure that he kept it, however and has gone from strength-to-strength over the course of the season.
“He deserves this because he is a player who is a brilliant example of how to handle the disappointment of not being in the team,” Weaver added.
“He could have gone out on loan but he turned it down and said ‘no, this is my club, this is what I want, I’m going to dig in, get better, get back in the team and take my chance.
“He’s the ultimate professional.”
It took just five minutes for Thomson to take his chance at the home of football, making sure that Weaver’s men got off to a flying start.
Connor Hall’s raking pass from left to right found Ryan Fallowfield hugging the touchline and the full-back delivered a low first-time cross that Thomson met at the near post and diverted across County custodian Sam Slocombe.
Town continued to enjoy the better of the contest and should have gone 2-0 up when Aaron Martin was presented with a clear sight of goal, only to drag his finish past the upright when he really ought to have found the net.
Jack Muldoon also went close after getting on the end of Josh Falkingham’s clever free-kick, though his lofted effort dropped wide of the mark.
With the half approaching its midway-point, Notts started to enjoy a bit of possession and forced Harrogate back for a spell, however the Magpies soon found themselves two behind.
Fallowfield won a free-kick on the right-hand edge of the County box and Thomson’s inviting delivery was met and finished by centre-half Hall at the back stick.
The chances continued to come for Town as Martin was played clean through by Falkingham’s clever pass, and although his dinked finish beat Slocombe, the ball was cleared away by a covering defender.
Then, five minutes before the interval, Martin went closer still, thudding an effort against the post from close range with the Magpies genuinely hanging on for dear life.
That the men in yellow and black were not out of sight by half-time will have left Weaver concerned, a feeling that surely intensified when County halved the deficit within seconds of the re-start.
Ex-Newcastle United youngster Callum Roberts curled a delightful left-footed free-kick past James Belshaw from just outside the Harrogate box as Notts went on enjoy a 15-minute spell in charge of proceedings.
With Town trapped inside their own half, Weaver’s decision to introduce veteran striker Jon Stead up top proved a master-stroke and his presence helped get his team up the pitch.
The North Yorkshiremen were soon back in the ascendancy and Muldoon could have restored their two-goal cushion on 66 minutes, but got his finish all wrong when the ball broke to him inside the box.
Moments later, the game was however made safe as Stead did well in the centre of the park to release Muldoon down the right, from where he crossed for Jack Diamond to tuck away a neat finish.
County briefly threatened to set up a grandstand finale, though Wes Thomas was denied by Belshaw’s stunning save at point-blank range, and from there on in, Town looked fairly comfortable. There was even time for Stead to hit the post in stoppage-time, but by this point Town were already home and dry.
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