CONCORD R v HARROGATE T
HUMBLE Harrogate Town and their manager Simon Weaver won’t allow their Non-League roots to be forgotten – and will show Concord Rangers total respect in the FA Trophy final.
Despite now being a Football League club, Town were delighted to be given the chance to complete their cup run and return to Wembley.
Harrogate beat Notts County in the semi-final last September having also seen off the Magpies in the play-off final just a month earlier to make earn club history with promotion.
They have had to wait a long time for their latest date with destiny to be set and Weaver had his doubts whether it would ever happen.
“There were times we wondered will they null and void the competition,” he told The NLP. “They’ve stayed true to their word, it’s just amazing to have the opportunity to go back there. We really enjoyed it first time round, the anticipation, the build-up, it’s pretty much like a dream on the day.”
Harrogate have been able to turn their attention to the final recently having secured League Two survival with victory over rivals Bradford City earlier this month.
On Friday, Weaver rotated his team in their 5-4 victory over Cambridge United to give them the best possible chance tomorrow.
“It was a good opportunity for players to prove us wrong in some respects for not playing them and at the same time keep people fresh for Monday which is a huge game for the club,” he said. “We’ve been doing our homework on Concord. They’re a good footballing team and we expect it to be a really hard on the battle on the day.
“We had two objectives; to get safe and secure Football League status for next year and secondly have this final and to try and win it.”
At times this season, Weaver’s side flirted with the playoffs but have lacked consistency and won just twice in their previous 11 matches. He brought in Josh McPake, Simon Power and Josh March in January to strengthen their attack after failing to kill games off – and they made a big difference.
“It’s different operating within transfer windows because if you get a row of bad luck and injuries to key players, we realised we didn’t have that quality in depth,” he said. “They gave us more edge in the final third and we won seven out of ten games then. It lifted the mood and the training sessions. Then two out of the three players got injured and you could see the disappointment.”
Tricky too has been their new grass pitch which was laid immediately after their play-off final victory in August in place of their 3G surface, banned in the Football League.
“Our home pitch was a problem for us for a few months, it became so heavy,” said Weaver.
“The pitch just wasn’t conducive for passing football. Every time we’d come up against the likes of Bradford, Tranmere, Bolton, whilst we might not have won all those games we’ve turned up and dominated the games in between the 18-yard boxes. We can take great heart from that so we know we’re at our best on better pitches.”
And Harrogate certainly won’t be taking Concord likely just because they are no longer a Non-League club.
“Everyone knows the journey we’ve been on and three years ago we were in the National League North ourselves,” added Weaver. “Everyone’s down to earth and know that as quick as the rise has been you can quickly have a demise if you don’t keep up the intensity.”
‘It’s amazing to get our opportunity to go to Wembley. We really enjoyed it first time round, it’s pretty much like a dream on the day’