Walsall 1 Harrogate Town 3 – Midweek misery forgotten as Sulphurites respond in style

Simon Weaver was full of praise for Harrogate Town’s defensive efforts as his side bounced back from midweek disappointment to turn over in-form Walsall in their own back yard.

Harrogate Town's Jack Diamond. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The Sulphurites chief read the riot act to his back-line following Tuesday’s 4-0 EFL Trophy loss to Sheffield Wednesday, a game which saw an encouraging attacking display ruined by some extremely flaky play at the opposite end of the field.

That inability to adequately defend their own penalty area has been a real issue for Town in recent weeks, but, having “faced up” to their failings and “taken on board” what Weaver said on the training ground on Thursday and Friday, they looked a lot more solid at the Bescot Stadium.

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And, an organised, disciplined defensive showing provided the foundation for a near-faultless away performance, the visitors soaking up plenty of Saddlers pressure before taking the game out of the home side’s reach with some clinical counter-attacking football.

“We were more composed defensively. The concentration levels were bang on. Across the back-four I thought they were immense,” said Weaver after Saturday’s 3-1 victory.

“They saw off danger, they worked in pairs within the shape, and the communication was there.

“It was pleasing because we were hurting the other night after conceding four goals, but a lot has been taken on board the last few days and the lads have faced up to it, worked hard in training and come out fighting.

“For all their possession, I don’t think Walsall were ever really able to hurt us. They had to change shape, change personnel at half-time, so we knew we were frustrating them.

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

“They have the threat of (George) Miller in behind, so we knew we had to remain goal-side when they were looking to release him and it was all about concentration and focus and I thought that Warren Burrell and Connor Hall were immense. All across the back-line, they did their jobs.

“We knew if that we could remain compact and cut off those passing lanes and then spring forwards ourselves.

“As I’ve said, I think we’ll always create chances, we could have had five in the end with the counter-attacks late on.”

Simon Power cracked home a 25-yard free-kick to give Town a 20th-minute lead following an even, but rather uneventful start to the contest, Walsall then going on to dominate much of the remainder of the first half without ever really managing to open their visitors up.

With the Saddlers just beginning to build a head of steam again after the break, a second goal arrived at just the right time for Harrogate, Jack Diamond beating the offside trap to get on the end of Danilo Orsi’s through-ball, racing clear down the left and shooting beyond Carl Rushworth.

The points were then wrapped up on 82 minutes, Alex Pattison delivering a low cross from the right for Luke Armstrong to finish off at the near post before Kieran Phillips pulled one back for Walsall at the death.

“We looked lethal because of the pace we have got,” Weaver said of Town’s impressive attacking display.

“It was a bit like the other night at Hillsborough where we were on the receiving end, but because Walsall were sucked into playing it across the back and moving up the pitch bit by bit, there was space in behind.

“With our running power, we knew we could hurt them.

“Jack Diamond was red-hot down the left and Simon Power must be feeling really good about himself.

“We know that if we get the ball wide they can skip past players, they can be scary players to play against if we look after the ball and give it to them in good areas.

“Luke Armstong just pounces on chances inside the box, it was a great delivery and a great run across the near post for the third goal.

“I’m just delighted for him after he’s come back from a few weeks out with that shoulder injury.”

Walsall: Rushworth; Whyte, Menayese, Monthe, Ward; Perry (Khan 46), Earing; Shade, Osadebe, Kiernan (Phillips 68); Miller. Unused substitutes: Rose, Taylor, Bates, Leak, Sadler.

Harrogate Town: Oxley; Sheron, Burrell, Hall, Page; Power (Thomson 63), Falkingham, Pattison, Diamond; Armstrong (Martin 83), Orsi (Muldoon 63). Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Fallowfield, Kerry.

Referee: M Edwards (Tyne & Wear)