Harrogate Town 2 Solihull Moors 2: Joe Leesley screamer not enough to secure opening-day win

Harrogate Town's Joe Leesley scored a screamer against Solihull Moors. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town's Joe Leesley scored a screamer against Solihull Moors. Picture: Matt Kirkham
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An absolute stunner from Joe Leesley wasn't enough to earn Harrogate Town all three points from their 2019/20 season-opener at home to Solihull Moors.

Trailing at the break, two goals in the space of as any minutes from Mark Beck, then Leesley, saw Simon Weaver's men go 2-1 up, though they ultimately had to settle for a point following Brendan Kiernan's penalty miss.

And while Town did enough to win the game in the second half, they began the afternoon poorly, their new-look back-four appearing all at sea during the opening stages.

The match was less than two minutes old when Solihull's Alex Gudger was able to head narrowly wide at the far post, then, just 60 seconds later, Nathan Blissett ran through on goal, forcing the advancing James Belshaw into a good save.

With six minutes on the clock, indecision between home centre-halves Connor Hall and Will Smith on the edge of their own box allowed Paul McCallum to burst through the middle, but the alert Belshaw again came to the rescue.

At the other end, Hall headed a floated Leesley free-kick from the left past the far post as Town enjoyed a brief foray forward, before Moors spurned a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 18th minute.

Terry Hawkridge went down inside the area with Kiernan and Jack Emmett in close proximity, prompting referee Andrew Miller to point to the spot, yet McCallum almost cleared the stand behind the goal with a woeful attempt from 12 yards.

The game settled into a more even affair after this, the pace of Kiernan and his willingness to run with the ball causing the visitors a few moments of concern.

It was, however, Moors' aerial and physical superiority that rather unsurprisingly led to them taking a 34th-minute lead.

Hawkridge sent over a corner from the left that the gigantic Liam Daly met at the back post and headed across goal for Blissett to nod home inside the six-yard box.

The first half ended without any further incident of real note, and the second began with Moors still marginally in the ascendancy but with Kiernan continuing to pose questions down the Harrogate right.

One such surge earned his side a 55th-minute corner, from which Leesley delivered for Beck to level the scores with a close-range, far-post header.

Riding the momentum garnered from their equaliser, Town immediately came again and Leesley turned the game on its head, advancing through midfield and unleashing an absolute screamer from almost 30 yards that almost broke the net.

Weaver's team's spell in the ascendancy was to last just 11 minutes, however, as Hawkridge got down the right and hung up a cross that it was all too easy, once again, for McCallum to nod into the bottom corner from just a couple of yards out.

Almost straight from the re-start, Town were handed a chance to re-claim their advantage when Jack Muldoon was bundled over in the box chasing a lost cause, though just like McCallum, Kiernan got too much on his spot-kick and blazed over.

And that miss was ultimately to cost his side two points, despite their strong finish to the match.

Kiernan forced visiting stopper Ryan Boot into an excellent save at point-blank range when he met Ryan Fallowfield's inviting right-wing centre with his head, while Solihull's Daly also had to clear off his own line as Harrogate won a flurry of corners deep into stoppage-time, but to no avail.