Home comforts vital for Bradford City, Doncaster Rovers and Harrogate Town in order to enjoy League Two success

HEADING INTO the new season, Bradford City, Doncaster Rovers and Harrogate Town share one thing in common – althought it is nothing to do with the fact they all hail from the same county and find themselves competing in League Two.

It is everything to do with their mutual need to recover quickly from a nasty bout of homesickness which afflicted each of them in a 2021-22 season that all three will not remember with any particular fondness.

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Who Bradford City, Doncaster Rovers and Harrogate Town need to be most wary of i...

Bradford and Harrogate picked up more away points – 30 and 28 respectively – than their home totals of 28 and 25.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Mark Hughes has enjoyed a productive summer in terms of recruitment but knows the pressure will be on to deliver this season Picture: Robbie Jay Barratt/Getty Images

From early October, City won just three League Two home games until season’s end, an exceedingly poor statistic given that no side can count on such strong support in the division.

And then there’s Doncaster. Across the EFL, only Oldham (14) lost more home league games last term than Rovers.

Significantly improving such dreadful numbers will go a fair way towards determining whether the Yorkshire trio have a better time of it in 2022-23.

Intriguingly, City and Rovers will collide at Valley Parade at the start of the season on Saturday in front of a decidedly-healthy five-figure crowd, including a sizeable travelling contingent.

Simon Weaver will be hoping he has solved Harrogate Town's defensive problems for the 2022-23 League Two campaign. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It is testament to the smart-looking squad restructuring at both so far this summer that the optimism among both sets of supporters ahead of the big kick-off does not appear misplaced.

Few sides have been busier than Mark Hughes’s City in yet another club overhaul. Fourteen new signings have arrived and they may not be finished yet.

The addition of a striker with a proven lower-league record in Vadaine Oliver stands out, as does the signing of a winger who was highly regarded in his early years at Middlesbrough in Harry Chapman and another with real pedigree in Jamie Walker.

Hartlepool United were also pretty deflated to lose key defender Timi Odusina to City last month, while Huddersfield Town loanees Romoney Crichlow and Kian Harratt impressed at League Two level with Swindon and Port Vale last season.

Gary McSheffrey will; be hoping he can oversee an instant return to League One with Doncaster Rovers Picture: Bruce Rollinson

But it is the addition of Hull City club captain Richie Smallwood, a player who really does not belong in League Two and has immense experience – not to mention three lower-division promotions on his CV – which has the makings of being the most significant capture.

Given the amount of new signings, it may take time for City to fully hit their straps.

A comprehensive defeat in their final pre-season game at Chesterfield should also serve as a well-timed reminder that teams will try and set about them in the new season and be motivated to turn them over.

More especially, given the marquee name in City’s dug-out.

Yet having a target on their backs is nothing new for City. It can be notoriously dangerous to make predictions as far as they are concerned, but this much can be taken as read.

If the likes of Smallwood and Oliver step up and City find more of a ruthless edge up top, allied to an ability to break down teams who will come to Valley Parade to frustrate, niggle and drop deep as night follows day, then better times surely lie ahead.

Being better in both boxes will be pivotal to the hopes of Gary McSheffrey’s Doncaster.

Rovers have enjoyed a positive pre-season, albeit with the proviso that this can sometimes mean absolutely nothing.

But the evidence is that they will be more energetic and forceful in the press in the new season and more difficult to play against. Maybe not as soft either.

They have brought in willing runners in the likes of George Miller, Harrison Biggins and Luke Molyneux – a player who was coveted by many in particular – and have leaders in Tommy Rowe and Adam Clayton.

Boss McSheffrey will be also hoping that another at the back, in captain Tom Anderson, will be back sooner rather than later.

Rovers have also let go several contracted players who underwhelmed last season such as Joe Dodoo and Jordy Hiwula. One who they wanted to keep in John Bostock has also gone.

A player who, like Bostock, has too much class for League Two at his best has arrived in Lee Tomlin. It should provide more than adequate compensation.

By McSheffrey’s own admission, he has signed a bit of a ‘maverick’ in Tomlin.

He is a playmaker who is not the most athletic in the world, but one who is capable of turning a game in an instant with a killer pass or sublime piece of opportunism.

Keeping him fit, focused and happy will be key at Rovers, whose last two campaigns at this level have ended in promotion.

Much like with City and Rovers, the end of last season could not come fast enough for Harrogate, even accounting for the fact that it was only their second campaign in the EFL.

Second-season syndrome? Maybe. One school of thought also suggests that Town – who won just four of their last 19 league matches – are between eras as the side who served them so well in reaching the Football League is broken up.

For manager Simon Weaver, a centre-half in his playing days, remedying Harrogate’s lamentable defensive statistics last term will be equally if not more important than sorting out their home form. The Sulphurites conceded 75 goals in League Two last season. Only rock-bottom Scunthorpe shipped more in the division.

Harrogate have goal threats in the shape of Jack Muldoon, Luke Armstrong and Alex Pattison.

It’s about finding a mean sheen at the back to get things on an even keel after a testing 2022.