Season preview: Harrogate Town raising the stakes in National League promotion bid on 3G

Danny Ellis has retained the Harrogate Town captaincy (Photo: Craig Hurle)
Danny Ellis has retained the Harrogate Town captaincy (Photo: Craig Hurle)

‘Rather you than me, Simon’ - that was the closing  line to Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver after talk of a selection dilemmas for Saturday’s opening match of the season.

Town have built a distinguished squad for the upcoming campaign where they will look to improve on a club record high league finish 12 months ago.

Jordan Robertson is one of eight new recruits at the CNG Stadium (Photo: Craig Hurle)

Jordan Robertson is one of eight new recruits at the CNG Stadium (Photo: Craig Hurle)

The obvious area of concern for Weaver over the summer was in his goalscoring options after the departure of Brendon Daniels to National League North rivals, and play-off conquerors, AFC Fylde.

It is a void that Weaver has filled with proven goalscorers at Town’s level and higher. The recruitment of John Paul Pittman stood out off the page when it was announced and Chib Chilaka returns to the CNG Stadium three years after leaving a firm fans’ favourite.

Targetman Jordan Robertson has forced his way into Weaver’s thoughts with six goals over the pre-season campaign, while Dominic Knowles is the only surviving front man of last season’s high point.

Weaver said: “If we had two goalscorers scoring 20 goals last year, I think we would have won the league. There were moments in big games where we missed too many chances. It wasn’t that we weren’t creating them.

“This year we have prepared to be horses for courses and I hope we are going to be better in front of goal.”

In midfield, England C internationals Andi Thanoj and Joe Leesley know all about each other following a season together at Alfreton and look set to prosper in a diamond midfield.

Lloyd Kerry, Warren Burrell, Tom Platt and Andy Gascoigne have been retained, too, in another area that looks crammed with competition.

North Ferriby United recruit Wayne Brooksby faces spending the first month on the sidelines through injury while fellow winger Jack Emmett adds a different edge to any other.

Weaver confirmed Danny Ellis will retain the club captaincy but he has not guaranteed the defender a starting place. Ellis’ place is under threat from former Guiseley colleague Simon Ainge who has been made vice captain.

Luke Shiels is likely to start as the left-side of two centre halves alongside Ben Parker and Lewis Turner in defence with Louie Swain having joined Evo-Stik side Spennymoor Town yesterday.

The retention of goalkeeper Peter Crook amid serious interest from professional clubs is another welcome boost for Weaver and his backroom staff.

And with 20 names registered, Weaver knows keeping players sweet will be key to success on the field.

The boss added: “Players understand here that the game has evolved into a squad game now. Professional clubs have 40 players on the books. We’re going to need all 20 of ours.

“They are all going to be playing but some will need to be patient.”

Weaver’s recruitment has centred also on the need for players that can prosper on the new artificial surface.

The replacement of a grass surface for a 3G alternative has favoured clubs like Maidstone United in recent years but Weaver felt it could work both ways.

“It may take opposition teams a bit of time to get used to it but they may also enjoy playing on it,” Weaver added.

“All we can focus on is that the players we have recruited should maximise their talents on the 3G pitch.

“It’s a beautiful surface and even I want to lace up the boots and get playing on it.”