Harrogate Town v Newport County: Solving back-five puzzle is key for Sulphurites

Harrogate Town will have to show they have learnt the lessons of the last two Saturdays as they try and get their League Two play-off push back on track at home to Newport County.

Three games without a win have seen Simon Weaver's side drop to 11th in the table since the unbeaten start to 2024 which muscled them into the top seven has comes to end.

Long-serving manager Weaver was happy with elements of Saturday's game at home to Walsall, just not the ones which decided the 2-0 defeat.

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In particular, he thought his players struggled to break down a disciplined back five who let them have plenty of the ball.

The Sulphurites have failed to score in the two games since Mansfield Town shocked them by winning 9-2, both against sides playing three centre-backs. Like Walsall and Crewe Alexandra, Tuesday's visitors also favour an extra defender.

“Games against back fives when they come to shut you out, it's not easy to go through the gears and always get to the byline or when there's bodies in front of you, it's pretty difficult and their gameplan worked," Weaver reflected.

“They did block us out, but I think it was as much down to our lack of incisive edge and ruthless edge with the striking and the creation of chances, and their good play to be fair, respect to them.

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CRITICISMS: Harrogate Town manager Simon WeaverCRITICISMS: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver
CRITICISMS: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver

"I thought that we did pick up the pace a bit in the second half with the passing. There was more pace on the passes, they got to our man just that bit quicker.

"But too many times we went backwards in the middle and final third and it's okay building up possession, however we have to scan and be aware of when we can go and penetrate.

“I don't think we stretched their keeper enough. It was high, wide and handsome, or shots were blocked or we made the wrong decision to pass it across, even from 10 yards, eight yards out.”

Long-term absentees Lewis Thomas, Rod McDonald and Sam Folarin are still missing, but no one was added to the injured list at the weekend.

Victory will take Harrogate back into the play-off places unless Walsall win at home to Accrington Stanley.

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