Question of the WeekHow much VAR should there be in football?
Turkeys or Trophies
By: Andrew Doherty
GAINING admission to Harrogate's Wetherby Road ground as an away supporter today was like winning a Golden Ticket, with numbers being restricted to 600.
I wasn't one of them, but I'm not complaining because at least I was able to watch the game on Mariners TV. I can't say that I'm thrilled about Town's ticketing policy as a whole, but Mariners TV is a big plus. The sloth in me welcomes the fact I didn't have to make a 330-mile round trip, not that this has stopped me in previous years. On this day I have been to such places as Walsall (1987) for a 2 - 3 loss, and Derby (1991), where we earned a point in a hard-fought goalless encounter. Less explicable is that exactly 15 years ago I drove to Goole Town's Victoria Pleasure Ground to watch a 2 - 2 draw with Brigg. My memory is not of dazzling, Samba football or a pulsating cut-and-thrust game, but of a grey, freezing day, on which I was full of cold. Why? Coming back to Harrogate, I wasn't at our last game here a couple of years ago either, but then no-one was as Covid restrictions applied. As a result, we watched it on i-Follow and had to listen to an Alan Bennett soundalike burbling on about bus services on the Wetherby Road and other minutiae.
It seems like years since our last game, but at least it was a win. With Maguire-Drew away, at least temporarily and I suspect permanently, and the prospect of Scannell returning and maybe doors opening for reinforcements in January, then we can hope that some of the current weaknesses will be addressed. Harrogate's results have been mixed, and as a result they hover about the relegation zone. Like us, their last game resulted in victory but it was over 3 weeks ago with the weather intervening in between times. I recently watched "Proud to be Town", a documentary about Harrogate getting through the Covid period and was impressed with the way that the club handled adversity, both from the people and footballing side of it.
Town, in blue today, started on this cold day in front of the crowd of 2,744 with an unchanged line-up from the Tranmere home win: Crocombe - Efete, Waterfall, Maher, Amos - Green - Kiernan, Holohan, Clifton, Khan - McAtee.
The ball bounced around but both sides passed the ball around well in the early stages. A nice move led to Holohan overhitting a pass to the overlapping Efete. Harrogate won a free-kick on 8 minutes following a foul by Green. This led to a corner. Town cleared and were lucky when the Harrogate player missed the ball completely from inside the box. Harrogate continued to show intent. On 11 minutes Folarin picked up the ball well out on the right, and pushed forward, ghosting around Amos and passing to the unmarked Armstrong who stroked the ball into the empty net. Harrogate 1, Town 0. The defence went missing. In a replica move of the Harrogate goal, Clifton then rounded the defence but there was no-one to receive the pass. Green had a good volley which home keeper Jameson jumped on after another Town attack. Both teams progressed the ball up the pitch slowly and efficiently. A Coley shot for Harrogate bounced off Maher's legs before Khan curled a shot wide for Town. On 29 minutes Town attacked. Kiernan waited for supplying the onrushing Efete, whose low cross was met at the far post by Khan who slotted home. Harrogate 1, Town 1. For the rest of the half Town had the upper hand, switching play and causing problems for the home side. The industrious Holohan, whose play today was either careless or creative but never less than committed, twice found McAtee after interceptions but McAtee's efforts were too weak to trouble the goalkeeper. Clifton ran forward on 41 minutes but was tackled waist-high by Burrell who was booked, as was Town's keeper Crocombe who raced upfield to join in the ruckus. Town put together another good attack on half time but Kiernan was offside. After early Harrogate pressure, it was Town who were the better side as the half time whistle blew, having played some nice team football.
The rain came down. The wind blew. Conditions were bleak. Within a minute of the restart Folarin found himself in but Efete stepped in and shielded the ball, allowing Crocombe to get there first. Town then attacked. Kiernan laid the ball off to McAtee who found himself clean through in the middle but seemed to lose momentum. The ball was pushed out to Clifton on the left. Clifton could have shot but rounded the defender and shot home from an angle. Harrogate 1, Town 2. On 52 minutes Folarin, under pressure from Efete, headed wide following a cross. Harrogate were playing with urgency as they looked to get back on terms. On 59 minutes Town countered, surging forward. A strong shot from Amos was parried, but Clifton was at too tight an angle so backheeled the ball to Khan who was unable to control it. Burrell then lost possession but as Town looked to break through, Khan did the same. Amos's intervention prevented Armstrong from scoring. The ensuing corner swung in. Mattock was inches away from getting a touch. The game was open. Harrogate were passing the ball well as Town hung on. Folarin went close on 64 minutes as he tried to turn in a cross. Great work by Falkingham then found danger man Armstrong but Crocombe took the cross comfortably. Town had an opportunity on 67 minutes when Holohan's chip gave Clifton a volley which went for a corner. Amos found Holohan. Town played the ball around. Efete's stabbed attempt was blocked, and the move ended again when Green committed a foul. Green then lost possession in midfield, and Holohan now committed the foul to stop the Harrogate attack. Town started to see more possession. Good holding play by Kiernan led to a pass to Amos and cross, from which Holohan won a corner. Amos found Waterfall's head but the header was pushed clear. On 75 minutes a misunderstanding led to Amos needlessly giving away a throw-in Town's half. Efete and Muldoon battled. Efete couldn't control the bounce. Muldoon played Armstrong through with a nest pass. Bypassing Waterfall Armstrong pushed the ball over the advancing Crocombe. Harrogate 2, Town 2. Town won a free-kick seconds later after Thomson fouled Holohan on the edge of Harrogate's box, but McAtee's effort went straight to the keeper. On 78 minutes Folarin was replaced by popular ex-Town player Max Wright as both sides sought the decisive goal. On 80 minutes McAtee lost possession. Holohan committed the follow-up foul. Great anticipation by Clifton then saw him win the ball and advance but a good defensive tackle stopped the move. Holohan then made a terrible pass, which luckily the Harrogate player was unable to control. This was a mixed game of good play and mistakes by both teams. Orsi replaced Kiernan on 82 minutes, allowing McAtee to drop back. Holohan started a move with good work in midfield. Fouls on Clifton and then Khan saw Town get the ball into the Harrogate box. It bounced around but Harrogate's defence stood firm. Efete found McAtee in the centre, who turned but chipped the ball wide. Armstrong's accurate header at the other end was gathered by Crocombe. A nice cross by Khan was pushed away as 3 minutes were added to the 90. Harrogate countered. Austerfield slid the ball through to Ramsey, whose left-footed shot beat the diving Crocombe, hit the post, bounced back, and struck Crocombe's shoulder before squirming into the net. Not for the first time, Town's defence had failed to close Harrogate down. Great work by Amos saw him wriggle clear and fire a good shot on goal and earn Town a corner, but this proved to be the last action as Town lost disappointingly, the final score being: Harrogate Town 3, Grimsby Town 2.
This was an entertaining game, which Town were unlucky to lose. The players worked hard and showed good team play, but like Harrogate were guilty of conceding the ball too much. Ultimately it was a lack of tightness in defence which led to the loss. Even if we'd won, I wouldn't have tipped Town for trophies this season, but equally we're not turkeys and we'll bounce back from this.
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