FA Cup is welcome distraction for Harrogate Town and Paul Thirlwell

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Harrogate Town have earned the right to switch off from trying to win promotion to the Football League, says assistant manager Paul Thirlwell.

Doing so in the FA Cup spotlight could help them.

Town complete this season’s FA Cup first-round weekend with a televised tie at home to 2008 winners and 2010 runners-up Portsmouth on Monday.

A Conference campaign which sees last season’s play-off quarter-finalists in seventh will be put on the backburner.

“You forget about the league from Saturday of last week to Monday,” said former Sheffield United midfielder Thirlwell.

“We’ve been in really good form in the league bar Saturday (when they suffered a first defeat in 11 games at Eastleigh). We’ve put ourselves in the play-off places again.

“Everyone’s earned the right to shift their concentration somewhere else.

“People always harp on, whether it’s the Premier League or anywhere else, about the league being the most important thing but why not be in as many competitions as you can? It means you’re winning games.”

Even Conference games are televised in 2019, so the live cameras should not hold any fears for the home players, but Thirlwell thinks Monday’s bigger occasion will suit them.

“We’ve had two or three games on television in the National League,” he pointed out.

“They tend to rise to the challenge in the big games, fingers crossed, and it won’t come bigger than this for most of them.

“The size of the opposition, the size of their fanbase, the fact the television cameras are here, you wouldn’t be human if it didn’t give you a little bit of an extra edge or a one per cent.

“All the players will be looking forward to it and they’ll want to do well for their family and everyone watching.”