Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver hints players are risking being left behind in club's forward march

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver says the last 10 games of 2020-21 will go a long way to deciding who remains on the club's upward journey next season, and not enough players made a case for themselves in Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Southend United, their fourth in five games.

Weaver kept his players in the dressing room for half an hour afterwards dispensing some “home truths”, then admitted his side perhaps lacked the quality in some areas to keep the Sulphurites progressing.

Although they hit the bar through Brendan Kieran, and although Mark Oxley made two good first-half saves from Josh McPake, a Harrogate team with aspirations to finish in the top half at the end of their first season in League Two did not look more gifted players than a Shrimepers side who even after the win remain in the relegation zone.

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So when failing to track Alan McCormack resulted in Ashley Nathaniel-George scoring the only goal of the game, there were words to be said afterwards – albeit calmly, according to Weaver.

CHALLENGE: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver

“It wasn't a shouting match at all, you don't benefit from shouting and swearing, it was just a case I wanted to see on the video how we conceded the goal,” he said. “You don't want to get it wrong and point the finger at players (unfairly) so we wanted to watch it back as a staff and sometimes when things are a bit cooler you get right to the heart of the matter.

“We wanted to be accurate in our reflections on the goal.

“But then there were some home truths that we're not just thinking it's the play-offs or nothing, it's about trying to finish in the top 10 because that would be a pat on the back for everyone involved in the club and we don't want to just stay up. We want to carry on momentum because we know how many fans we need in the building to make it a proper football business here that carries the club forward in a healthy fashion.

“There's a lot of responsibility to finish the season well and also we've reached the end with a couple of players over the last couple of years and these will be defining moments, defining games – nine games that will see where we go with this group and how many we can be confident will take us on again as we continue to strive for better.

“The vast majority on the pitch had done more than enough for us to stick with them a little bit longer (there was only one change from the side on the end of another disappointing 1-0 home defeat against Morecambe seven days earlier); today didn't help their claims to do that.

“But people don't see what happens in training. We throw the gauntlet down and people have to take it and if they don't, they're not in the team.

“Sometimes a lack of quality can be misconstrued for a lack of intensity if we don't quite quite the answers in the final third. Is it all about not enough attitude? Some people can be in a daze because they can't problem-solve and it's a step too far.

“I don't think it's all about everyone downing tools because there were characters out there like the skipper (Josh Falkingham) and Connor Hall who really shone and they want it.

“We've had enough chances in the four defeats out of five to have won all of them but we've not had that bit of quality.

“That might be form or it might be that we have to make sure it's not too much a stretch for too many players as we go into next season.”

Harrogate's best players in the first half were wide midfielders Simon Power and Josh McPake, who both went off with hamstring injuries. Weaver is hopeful the latter's was less serious than it looked.

“I think Simon Power's was more severe, his hamstring popped so we'll get a scan on it straight away and look after him,” he said. “In the case of Josh McPake it looked like he'd been shot but he had a similar reaction last week and was training on Monday so hopefully it's not severe. It's been relentless this season.”

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