Harrogate Town must strive for more than League Two survival, insists Simon Weaver after Accrington Stanley defeat

Warren Burrell hooks the ball home from close range to draw Harrogate Town level with Accrington Stanley. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites went down 2-1 at Accrington Stanley on Saturday, Jack Nolan’s 98th-minute free-kick earning all three points for the 10-man hosts.

Having seen his side lose out to Forest Green and Tranmere in their two previous outings, Weaver said he was “disgusted” by Town’s first-half efforts at the Wham Stadium and accused them of letting down their supporters.

That result leaves Harrogate 21st in the table with just three points to their name from a possible 12 and occupying the kind of territory they spent the majority of last season languishing in.

Simon Weaver said he was 'disgusted' with his Sulphurites players' first-half efforts at Accrington Stanley. (Photo: Matt Kirkham)
Simon Weaver said he was 'disgusted' with his Sulphurites players' first-half efforts at Accrington Stanley. (Photo: Matt Kirkham)

And although they pulled well clear of the drop-zone during the latter weeks of 2022/23, Weaver says that he expects much more than that this time around.

“In the first half, I was disgusted with the lack of application,” he said.” We weren’t winning a first ball, a header, a tackle - the fundamentals of how we have come to be at this point and in the Football League.

“We can’t afford to lose that raw edge and desire, and that’s why we let the fans down on Saturday.

“We have to keep striving. I don’t want to settle for a 19th-placed finish or 21st, or a battle, because I’ll back Paul Thirlwell and I to come through battles in the end, but I want a team that holds itself accountable as well.

“We have got more talent in the building now, but we can’t have a laboured approach. You get results by playing with heart and soul, not letting fans down by being second in a challenge.

“The amount of times we were out-jumped in midfield when we shouldn’t have been was quite harrowing, to be honest, in the first half especially. And there was a lack of discipline and a lack of composure.”

Trailing to Sean McConville’s exquisite curling free-kick, which picked out the top corner of Mark Oxley’s net, Town made three changes at the break.

Levi Sutton, Warren Burrell and Josh Falkingham were the men introduced to the fray and the latter two were involved in pulling the Sulphurites level on 87 minutes - but only after Accrington right-back Seb Quirk had been sent off for two bookable offences.

Falkingham floated a diagonal free-kick into the box from close to halfway, Luke Armstrong flicked the ball on and Burrell nipped in ahead of Stanley stopper Toby Savin to volley home a close-range finish.

But despite their numerical advantage, Weaver’s men conspired to lose the game in the eighth of 15 added minutes, Nolan’s low set-piece effort beating Oxley at his near post.

“Second half, the introduction of the three [half-time substitutes] got us on the ball and playing,” Weaver added.

“The players who came on did well, at least we had a foothold in the game, but we can’t keep giving ourselves uphill battles.

“It’s frustrating because at 1-1, we were probably the favourites with them being down to 10 men, while before that we were dominating the second half.

“It would have been a fantastic feeling coming back with a win, or at least a point, from a difficult venue against a team who were in League One last season. But, it wasn’t to be.”

Saturday’s result leaves Town 21st in the League Two standings ahead of this Saturday’s home showdown with seventh-placed Morecambe.