Town’s date with destiny arrives

hsb  Harrogate Town Manager Simon Weaver.  (121128M2)
hsb Harrogate Town Manager Simon Weaver. (121128M2)

Harrogate Town host Hastings United in an historic FA Cup Second Round tie on Saturday (kick-off 1pm).

The match marks the furthest the club has ever progressed in the competition, and a win would include Town in the draw for the third round, alongside Premier League clubs.

Over 2,000 tickets have been sold for the clash, and manager Simon Weaver is preparing his troops for the biggest match in the club’s history.

He said: “We are hugely excited about the game.

“It is the first time we have got through to this round, it is very exciting and that has been reflected in the lads’ training this week.

“There has been a real energy and zest to it.

“There is a great feeling in the dressing room, real energy behind the scenes.”

The boss has twice travelled south to watch their Ryman Isthmian League Premier Division opponents.

He said: “We know a fair bit about them.

“I wrote a report to let the players know about aspects of their play, their strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect.

“They are a good team and need to be respected, they are on a great run themselves.”

The match kicks off early to allow for ITV to compile a highlights package for Saturday evening.

Weaver knows the strength of what is expected to be a vociferous Wetherby Road crowd can inspire his side to victory.

He said: “With the day fast approaching excitement levels are building.

“The gantry is up for the TV cameras.

“A couple of years ago Alfreton Town came here, and a win would have won them the championship.

“They didn’t win, because a large crowd got behind us and drove us over the line.

“We have had a habit of scoring late in games recently, and I think it is because the support have got behind us.

“I know they will be our twelfth man this weekend.”

Despite the media glare and lure of the money-spinning third round, Weaver is urging his players to enjoy the match, and described the tie as “proper football”.

He said: “We have already achieved more than any other Harrogate Town team has in the FA Cup.

“I want the players to enjoy it, like they used to when playing Sunday football when they were younger.

“Sometimes you can get swept away watching the Premier League, but cup matches like these are a great reminder of what football is all about, to be honest.

“It is proper football.”

Draining issues on Town’s newly-laid playing surface have plagued the club this season, but, despite this week’s rainfall, Weaver is confident the pitch will be ready, with covers put on beforehand if necessary.

He said: “We are doing everything we possibly can, I do think the match will be on.”

Town are on a five-match winning run at home, but have prepared for this match with two defeats on the road.

On Saturday, they were knocked out of the FA Trophy 2-0 at Gainsborough Trinity, a result which followed last Tuesday’s 1-0 Blue Square North loss at Stalybridge Celtic.

Reflecting, he said: “We have had to play a few lads out of position recently.

“However, we still looked comfortable on the ball and competitive, which shows what we’re about at the moment.”

On Tuesday night, Town host Guiseley AFC in the quarter-finals of the West Riding County Cup.

Victory would set up a potential semi-final with Harrogate Railway.

Weaver said: “I have had a joke with Billy Miller (Railway manager) about that, it would be a cracking match.”

Town visit Halifax Town for a league fixture on Wednesday.

l For the latest on the Wetherby Road playing surface, available players and all you need to know about Hastings United, see pages 132-133.