Promoted via the National League Play-Offs last season, Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town have taken to their new life in the EFL like a duck to water.
An excellent opening day 4-0 battering of Southend United has been followed up with classy wins against Bradford, Barrow and Grimsby, alongside a good point at home to Walsall. Saturday’s defeat to Colchester may have put a temporary downer on the Sulphurites – despite what was still a very good showing – but the boys in yellow sit 6th in the table, flying high with the wind well and truly in their sails.
Perhaps most impressive about Harrogate, results aside, is their creative style of play that makes them oh-so-exciting to watch at times. Weaver has typically deployed a classic 4-4-2 formation – seldom seen nowadays – that allows him to get the most out of his players in a simple but effective fashion.
With wide midfielders, as opposed to wingers, the side have seen a lot of success from out on the flanks – the Sulphurites sitting in an impressive second place for accurate crosses per 90 (6.3), just behind Forest Green Rovers (6.8). They are also, of course, among one of the most creative sides in the league in general, sitting joint top for big chances created (18) alongside Carlisle, Mansfield, Cambridge, Newport and Salford.
Let’s have a look at some of the key players behind Harrogate’s fantastic start to EFL life.
Whilst top scorer Jack Muldoon will take plenty of credit for his goals, much of the Sulphurites’ success can actually be pinned down to the good work of wide midfielder George Thomson.
Thomson, who has spent his entire career in non-League with the likes of Hinckley United, Chester, and FC United of Manchester, has had little struggle adapting to life in League Two, currently coming in at first place for key passes made per game (3.9) in his new division.
The Nottingham Forest graduate’s creativity is invaluable to Weaver’s outfit, sitting in the classic #7 role on the right-hand side and providing a constant stream of supply for top-scorer Muldoon.
But Muldoon has, of course, been a vital part of this early success – netting 6 in 8 league outings so far this season.
Having prior made just three appearances in the EFL – these coming for Rochdale in League One, 2014/15 – the former Doncaster Rovers trainee made a name for himself in the National League with AFC Fylde before linking up Harrogate at the start of the 2018/19 campaign, and has ever since been an integral part of their team.
Scoring 28 in 83 in the fifth tier for Weaver’s side, you could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that Muldoon might find the step up to League Two difficult – but this clearly hasn’t been the case. Banging in six in eight games so far whilst also contributing an assist, the Scunthorpe-born has been outstanding for his side and their endeavors a division above.
Midfielder Kerry has also been influential to the Town’s success, being the hard-working central engine necessary in any good side.
Following the trend, the Sheffield United youth graduate had until recently spent almost his entire career in non-League – bar early spells with Torquay and Chesterfield in League Two – but is another who has had no hiccups in making the step up over the past two months.
All-action, ever running, and leaving everything on the pitch week-in-week-out, Kerry is exactly the sort of player every fan wants in his team. Currently boasting the 2nd highest tackles-per-game in the division (3.7), it’s easy to see why the Yorkshireman is rated so highly in HG2.
24-year-old Ryan Fallowfield’s hard work and commitment from fullback has been another key cog in the Harrogate system over recent years, the former Hull City man having joined the club back in 2017.
Similar to Lloyd, a lot of Fallowfield’s off-the-ball work is vital to what Weaver is trying to achieve with his side. The defender’s presence on and coverage of the right flank is excellent and seemingly incredibly influential to the success of players around him; his heatmap from the 2-1 win over Grimsby Town last week shows just how hard he works.
The fullback does, however, leave a lot to be desired with his crossing – just one of his 16 attempts in the past four games reaching a teammate.
Harrogate Town: what can be achieved?
The sky is seemingly the limit for Weaver and his men this season. Evidently far more than just a side in form after promotion – instead one with a clearly defined style of play and the right personnel to execute such – who knows what Harrogate could be capable of over the course of the next six months.
Looking long-term, there is also no reason to suggest that the Town can’t go on to establish themselves another division above in League One over the next five years. With a clear vision under Irving Weaver’s ownership and the right personnel in charge, promotion can be achieved within the next two/three campaigns before settling down in the third tier.
Questions will perhaps be asked eventually about the management team – head coach Simon, of course, being the Chairman’s son! – but that is something to be brought up much further down the line.
But what do you think Harrogate can achieve this season? Let us know in the comment section below, or Tweet us in on @FanHub_Football. #FansFirst.