Walsall v Harrogate Town: Simon Weaver keen to see leadership skills come to the fore for Sulphurites

SIMON WEAVER has not had much cause to openly berate his Harrogate Town players over the past few years.

Tuesday was one of those rare occasions after Town’s self-inflicted 4-0 loss at Weaver’s boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday in the Papa John’s Trophy.

It was a night when the absence of someone else with Owls connections in injured senior centre-half Rory McArdle was keenly felt, with Weaver critical of his side’s lack of defensive leadership, organisation and decision-making without the veteran.

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The Town chief, who has always chosen his times to censure his team wisely, is mindful of the need for others to step up in that regard without McArdle, out for a fair spell.

It is a message delivered at a pertinent juncture, given the fact that Harrogate today face a Walsall side who are unbeaten in six games and are one of the form sides in the division.

Weaver, whose side are winless in their past four league outings – and have lost three of them – said: “In the defensive third, we need to show a bit more acumen and knowledge about the game as we don’t want to undo or undermine all the good work from the rest of the team.

“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus and am not naming names, but there is some indecision there.

“It takes a little bit of leadership that probably Rory McArdle was showing earlier in the season and that Mark Oxley shows in abundance.

Harrogate Town manager, Simon Weaver. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“It is just making sure we are solid and steady. It is not being hyper or over-excitable, but just making sure we see danger and snuff little worries out of the game.”

A handful of Town players who have been under the weather this week – including Josh Falkingham and Ryan Fallowfield – will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Midlands.

Jack Muldoon, who suffered a back spasm in midweek, should be available alongside Luke Armstrong, with Connor Hall also in the fray. Will Smith is a doubt with an abdomen issue.

Despite a sobering result at Hillsborough, Weaver has at least been encouraged by the reaction of his players to the setback after their pride took a knock in South Yorkshire.

Harrogate Town goalkeeper, Mark Oxley Picture: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

He continued: “It is an emotional game and I was really emotional after the game (on Tuesday) as I do not want to under-achieve.

“The culture we have got here is brutal honesty and when someone does well, everyone is around them.

“Where there is a recurring theme which can be avoided, we shout it out and so do all the players’ team-mates.

“We are in this together and problem-solving is great to do when you are in it together. The other night was just a reminder that as you step up, you can be punished for those switch-off moments.”

EXPERIENCED: Harrogate Town's Rory McArdle Picture: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Last six games: Walsall DWDWWL; Harrogate LDLLWL

Referee: M Edwards (Tyne & Wear).

Last time: Walsall 0 Harrogate 0, April 2, 2021; League Two.