Leesley's happy to stay put at Harrogate Town
With 13 goals and 15 assists to his name already this season, it is no great surprise that Harrogate Town winger Joe Leesley is attracting interest from elsewhere.
National League North promotion rivals Salford City tabled an undisclosed offer for the 23-year-old last week that is believed to be in excess of the record fee received by Town for a player.
Yet Leesley is staying put, having committed his future to the club, with his side facing a tough trip to to National League side Wrexham in the FA Trophy first round proper tomorrow.
Town’s opponents have not lost a home outing in 11 matches, however news of Leesley’s commitment will be a huge boost for his side, with the winger citing a number of factors behind his decision to remain at the CNG Stadium.
“I signed a contract with Harrogate Town and I want to be respectful of the chance that they gave me and help them get promoted,” he said.
“The gaffer [Simon Weaver] and Paul Thirlwell have been very good to me and I have a really close bond with everyone here. This is the first club I’ve played for where I can honestly say that I feel like I have 20 best friends inside the changing room with me.
“I’m playing well and enjoying my football, so it makes sense for me to stay.”
Leesley admits that he was flattered by Salford’s interest and makes no secret of his desire to play his football at the highest level possible.
“I think that anyone would be tempted by joining a club of Salford’s size, especially given the media attention they attract,” he added.
“They’re doing well and are a club on the up. The interest is flattering so I had to consider it. I want to play at as high a level as I can and my ambition is to play in the Football League because that is something I’ve never done.
“I’m playing well at Harrogate Town, however, and I’m confident that if I keep performing then it won’t go unnoticed.”
Leesley’s immediate priority is to help boss Weaver and his team-mates get their promotion push back on track following a dip in form that has seen them win just once in their last four league outings.
“We’ve not had the best run recently and we need to start picking up more points,” he said.
“The play-offs are what we’re aiming for and it would be a disaster if we didn’t make them.”
“I’ve got 13 goals and 15 assists in 24 games so far and it would be nice if I could have 20 of each by the end of the season and help the team get out of this division.”
The competition also sees Guiseley travel to fellow National League side Gateshead, who they narrowly lost out 1-0 to earlier this season and currently sit in mid-table.
Guiseley manager Paul Cox has insisted his focus remains firmly on the league, however tomorrow’s tie could be a great opportunity to build some much needed momentum for ahead of their recent dip in form.
Elsewhere, Halifax Town face the huge task of beating National League high fliers Macclesfield Town when they welcome them to the Shay Stadium in tomorrow’s FA Trophy tie.
Town however have the wind in their sails, with last week’s victory at promotion-chasing Aldershot ending their 11 match win-less run and giving them a huge confidence boost ahead of tomorrow’s outing.
New player-coach Andy Welsh will take charge of Ossett Albion for the first time when the Unicorns host Tadcaster Albion tomorrow in Evo-Stik League North following ex-manager Dave Haley’s departure last week.
Welsh has played for FC United of Manchester as well as Farsley Celtic and had a season in the MLS with Toronto. As well as his new role Welsh will also head up the club’s Unita Academy, another role previously held by Haley.
Welsh’s opposite number at Tadcaster, Michael Morton is expecting tight clash tomorrow.
He said: “We played them in the third game of the season and it was a big win for us [7-1] but when we played them in the cup at the end of November they had strengthened considerably and were very impressive. I expect it to be a very hard game.
“They’ve brought in some really good talent and had some financial backing so they will pose a big threat and I expect them to pick up plenty of points in the second half of the season.”
Elsewhere in the division tomorrow, 11th-placed Ossett Town travel to Scarborough Athletic and third-from-bottom Brighouse Town have a tough home fixture against leaders South Shields.
In Evo-Stik South, seventh-placed Frickley Athletic host mid-table Newcastle Town.
After an enforced break due to freezing temperatures last weekend and in midweek, Farsley Celtic return to action (weather permitting) at home to Matlock Town tomorrow.
Seventh-placed Celtic will be looking to build on their 2-1 victory over Hednesford Town last time out and close in on the top five the Premier Division.
Meanwhile, a key figure in Farsley’s promotion season last season promoted team, Richard Marshall, has been forced to retire due to a hip injury at the age of 31. Marshall made 57 appearances for the club in the 2016/17 promotion-winning campaign, weighing in with an impressive 20 goals in the process.
Knaresborough Town boss Paul Stansfield has received a welcome boost going into four fixtures he describes as Christmas cup finals.
Stansfield welcomes back former Swindon Town and Macclesfield front man Colin Heath back from injury ahead of a NCE Division One festive double-header against Selby Town and clashes with Shirebrook and Grimsby Borough.
Table-topping Town travel to sixth-placed Shirebrook tomorrow, followed by battles with Selby on December 23 and 30, before the New Year fixtures kick off with a home game against Grimsby on January 6.
“Colin will be like a new signing for us,” said Stansfield.
“He played in the reserves for us recently and scored twice, so it will be great to have him back with us.
“It is perfect timing because we are going into four really tough cup finals.
“Shirebrook are a very good side, who pushed us all the way in our 2-1 home win earlier in the season.
“They have Kieran Watson, who is a player that could go out and win a game by himself.
“After that we have Selby twice and then Grimsby Borough, all three of those will be very challenging fixtures.”
Elsewhere in Division One, Fourth-placed Yorkshire Amateur – who are four points behind Knaresborough – host eighth-placed Glasshoughton Welfare, fifth-placed Selby Town play FC Bolsover, AFC Emley host Eccleshill United and Nostell MW take on Hallam.
In the NCE Premier Division leaders Pontefract Collieries entertain bottom-of-the-table Clipstone tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
They will have to guard against over confidence with their opponents yet to collect a point while Pontefract have won 16 of their 18 league games and go into their latest contest in third place, a point behind Handsworth Parramore and three behind AFC Mansfield, but with four games in hand on both.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division tomorrow, fourth-placed Pickering Town travel to Penistone Church while fifth-placed Hemsworth Miners Welfare host lowly Albion Sports.
Mid-table Liversedge entertain Staveley Miners Welfare, 14th-placed Garforth Town travel to Maltby Main and third-from-bottom Harrogate Railway host Worksop Town.