Southend United 0 Harrogate Town 4: A dream start for League Two newcomers

Harrogate Town could not have wished for a better start to life in League Two.

Lloyd Kerry celebrates after putting Harrogate Town 2-0 up at Southend United. Picture: Getty Images

Two goals up by half-time, Simon Weaver’s men cruised to a 4-0 opening-day success away at Southend United, their first-ever Football League (EFL) outing in 106 years of history ending with them top of the pile.

Sterner tests are to come and although their opponents on the day are expected to struggle this term, this should not detract from what Town did at Roots Hall on Saturday afternoon.

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The Wetherby Road outfit were the better team throughout, controlling the tempo, dominating the ball and demonstrating a ruthless edge in front of goal.

Jack Muldoon netted an opening-day brace. Picture: Getty Images

With Mark Beck a surprise inclusion up top alongside Aaron Martin, Town began positively, enjoying the lion’s share of possession early on without creating any clear-cut chances.

The excellent Martin, who was playing his football in the sixth tier this time last year, was first to threaten to break the deadlock, narrowly clearing the cross-bar with a vicious strike from just outside the box on 22 minutes.

Moments later the same player met George Thomson’s cross from the right at the near post and showed good awareness to lay the ball off for Jack Muldoon to apply a finishing touch, sparking scenes of jubilation among the the travelling contingent.

Martin could then have made it two, but got his header from another Thomson centre all wrong, though a second goal did arrive before the interval.

With half-time approaching, Lloyd Kerry picked the ball up 25 yards from goal, and let fly with a stinging effort that Mark Oxley got a hand to but couldn't keep out of the top corner.

The Shrimpers came out and had a real go at their visitors at the start of the second period, Charlie Kelman's header forcing Joe Cracknell into his first meaningful save of the afternoon on 49 minutes.

Southend continued to press, and almost halved the deficit when Lewis Gard's cross from the left missed everyone, striking the inside of the far post before bouncing back into the grateful arms of Cracknell.

That storm partially weathered, Town would make the game safe with their third of the day, a goal which arrived in controversial circumstances just after the hour-mark.

Martin's header from a Thomson corner sparked a scramble inside the home area, and although the ball was initially cleared, Harrogate recycled possession for Martin to swivel and smash an effort past Oxley at his near post.

United were left furious as referee Antony Coggins ignored the prone figure of Richard Taylor inside the six-yard-box, allowing play to continue and Town to end the match as a contest.

The home team had nobody but themselves to blame for Town's fourth on 69 minutes, however.

Mark Molesley's men attempted to play out from the back, but only proceeded in giving the ball straight to Martin, who once again teed-up Muldoon to curl a delicious effort into the far corner.

Harrogate played out the remainder of the game in controlled fashion, never letting their standards drop as a momentous day for the club ended with smiles all around in the Essex sunshine.