Season Review: Harrogate Town’s rollercoaster ride in Vanarama North

NADV 1409274AM11 Harrogate Town V Stockport. (1409274AM11)
NADV 1409274AM11 Harrogate Town V Stockport. (1409274AM11)

The trials and tribulations of another long and arduous season for Harrogate Town are over.

Town wrapped up their season in familiar fashion at Stockport County on Saturday.

NADV 1412067AM1 Harrogate Town V Bradford Park Avenue. (1412067AM1)

NADV 1412067AM1 Harrogate Town V Bradford Park Avenue. (1412067AM1)

An 18th defeat of the season left Simon Weaver’s men 15th in the Conference North – their second lowest return under the young manager.

Weaver admitted mistakes during last summer’s recruitment but said the squad assembled since the turn of the year had turned the mood around at the CNG Stadium.

“At the start of the season we would have been disappointed with 15th but we soon realised we didn’t have enough mobility in the team,” said Weaver.

“There were mistakes on recruitment. We didn’t have a hungry enough group to get over the injuries and we didn’t have the pace in the team until we added the Goole lads and changed the strategy.

James Walshaw

James Walshaw

“With the squad we had, I would have taken 15th at Christmas. That squad was under achieving but now I feel the vibe in the squad is very good.

“On the last day we could have finished 11th or 17th, if we had finished 11th, I would have felt we had done something right.

“We started again at Christmas, and yes, we have not always got the results but we have deserved a lot more.”

For Town, the season started with higher expectations than ever before. A raft of new signings brought a strong pedigree to the squad with Weaver’s decision to narrow the pitch a clear indication to his preferred style.

Ashley Worsfold’s broken leg on the eve of the season gave Town an early blow and they went without a win in their opening five matches.

Weaver said: “The shape we played in pre-season, Ashley Worsfold was a big part of that. Having that phone call the week before the season was a really big blow for us.

The gaffer said his side had been hit by 44 injuries in the season.

He added: “One injury doesn’t matter but after three weeks we had nine on the sidelines. I don’t think any squad in the league can cope with that.”

James Walshaw’s scoring form led to victories over Oxford City, Stalybridge Celtic and Leamington as the rescue mission began, but another spell of poor form in September – including a 4-0 defeat at Solihull – left Town hovering perilously close to the relegation zone after ten matches.

Weaver’s search for answers went amiss, with make-shift recruits Colin Larkin and Callum Hassan both struggling to make an impression.

Captain Shane Killock was dropped following the 5-0 win over Brackley Town, and he was soon sent out on loan to rivals Guiseley without making a return to the matchday squad.

Killock’s exit coincided with a brief revival in November. But the run of seven wins in nine games in all competitions (including two County Cup victories) was soon brought to earth with a bump before Christmas.

Six defeats in eight matches, including a devastating 4-0 exit in the FA Trophy at FC United put Town down to 16h on January 4, and only four points above the drop.

A gamble to give youth a chance – with the introduction of former Goole players Andy Gascoigne, Jordan Thewlis and Cecil Nyoni and Wetherby Athletic’s Jack Emmett – rescued the relegation form.

The last throw of the dice brought four wins in five league matches. However, Gascoigne’s leg break in the 4-1 win over Chorley ended the star midfielder’s season six games into his Town career – a run of games that saw him score five times.

Without Gascoigne, the early season form returned and Weaver’s men were left with much to think about with a run of one win in the last eight games.

“We have to learn from last summer when we established a team that was good on paper but that didn’t mix,” Weaver added.

“The young lads have stepped up to this level and now the supporters know we have a firm identity.

“Now we are really optimistic about producing good lads and I’m excited to work with this group of players again.”