Outmuscled, outworked and outperformed, Harrogate Town were sent packing out of the FA Trophy in a dismal afternoon on Saturday.
FC United of Manchester, of the league below, blew Simon Weaver’s men away 4-0 as Town gave a performance befitting the cold snap around Bower Fold.
A slice of great fortune gave United an early lead, but the hosts built on their luck with intelligence and made Town’s frontline feed off scraps. As the final whistle fell, Town’s squad trudged off devoid of confidence and facing a 45-minute examination in the dressing room.
Weaver had given a warning shot to “comfortable players” following the 2-0 defeat to Bradford Park Avenue and he picked a side attempting to thwart United’s 3-4-2-1 structure.Illness kept Jake Speight sidelined while Lloyd Kerry and Alex Metcalfe found themselves watching the game as Louie Swain, Craig Nelthorpe and Luke Dean were favoured.
The first five minutes had promising signs too. But from a freak strike by home captain Dean Stott, Town’s confidence hit rock bottom.
Phil Barnes collected a free-kick in goal but his throw was miscontrolled by Dean near half-way and United defender Stott crashed the ball clear. With Barnes back-pedalling, the ball swirled into the far corner. Stott stood arms aloft, Beckhamesque.
Ten minutes later, Stott had the perfect chance to double his side’s lead. Barnes had pulled off one good save before another led to the ball falling at Craig Lindfield’s feet.
Dave McGurk’s stray leg saw the former Liverpool youngster trip and a penalty was given - Stott making no mistake despite Barnes’ attempts.
Town failed to string a meaningful attack in the early exchanges, and the lack of ideas meant an end to Luke Dean’s afternoon with a 25-minute substitution and Dom Rowe entering the fray.
Walshaw then escaped his marker and looked to have won Town a penalty, but home goalkeeper David Culkin was adjudged to have swept the ball away when diving at the forward’s legs.
That was as good as it got for Town, and Stott, a right-sided defender, almost headed home for a hat-trick before teammate Tom Greaves fluffed wide on the stroke of half time.
Within two minutes of the second period, the match was ended as a contest.
Town again allowed United to attack and Linfield’s fine cross was nodded in by Matthew Wolfenden at the back post. Wolfenden should have bagged himself a brace, or even a hat-trick, in the second-half as gaping holes began to appear in Town’s midfield and back four.
Swain had one swerving shot that troubled United’s goalkeeper and Walshaw also missed when he was left pole-axed on the ground.
But more trouble was ahead for Town and as the minutes faded, Greg Daniels picked the ball up on the edge of the box and bulleted into the bottom corner.
His goal capped of a polished performance from the Evo-Stik men, who had forced Town’s midfield too deep throughout.