Brendon Daniels’ Halloween screamer sent ten man Harrogate Town to a third league win in succession in a scrappy affair against Worcester City at the CNG Stadium.
Daniels hammered home his 13th goal of the season to keep the fourth-place Sulpuhurites on track for a place in the Vanarama National North play-offs.
Town were slightly off the pace early on and were thankful to goalkeeper Peter Crook’s penalty save in an otherwise quiet first period.
But Daniels lit up proceedings shortly into the second half when firing into the top corner from 30 yards
Simon Weaver’s men then held out out for more than half an hour with a man less following Andy McWilliams’ dismissal for a second yellow.
Having been dumped out of the FA Cup 4-1 at the hands of Grimsby Town last week, Weaver made three changes to his starting line-up with Paul Thirlwell, Lloyd Kerry and debutant forward Jerry Yates all starting.
Paul Clayton (injured) and Cecil Nyoni (suspended) were two enforced casualties from the side that exited the FA Cup, with Louie Swain also losing his place in central midfield.
The changes gave Town early impetus into the game, with Kerry seeing a viscous strike tipped over by Worcester goalie Ethan Ross within four minutes.
From the resultant corner, Luke Shiels rose well at the back post to meet Daniels’ delivery but his powerful header was denied by Ross again. Yates also provided a lively beginning to life in a yellow and black shirt as he dragged a shot from the edge of the area narrowly wide in his first real involvement.
Town conceded a spate of niggly fouls in the first half, with Danny Ellis and Peter Crook both penalised on the very edge of Town’s box and Paul Thirlwell being cautioned for a heavy challenge on Danny Jackman.
Crook made immediate amends for his handball infringement – which earned him a yellow card – as he made a sprawling save at the feet of Shaun Harrad following Sean Geddes’ blocked free-kick.
Town continued to be pulled up for their indiscipline, and referee Paul Marsden had no other option but to award a penalty with ten minutes to go until half time when Andy McWilliams took out Sam Miniham inside the box.
However, Town were not made to pay as hero Crook spread himself to his right and stopped Geddes’ effort with his chest.
The ball has not been dropping in striker Dom Knowles favour in front of goal over the last few weeks, and it was the case again on the stroke of half time when Yates’ dink over the top was excellently intercepted with Knowles waiting to volley.
Daniels, the league’s top goal-getter, had been restricted to just two free-kick attempts in the first half but he made his impression on the game inside 90 seconds of the second.
Many supporters were still taking up their vantage points for the second period when Colbeck slid the ball into the winger’s path, 30 yards out. Daniels allowed it to run across his body, and snapped an fierce strike into the top corner.
It was a goal worthy of winning any football match, and will certainly be one to consider for Town’s goal of the season.
Town’s job of defending the lead was made an arduous one on 58 minutes, however, when McWilliams mistimed a second challenge on Miniham on the greasy, wet surface and was shown his marching orders.
Weaver reshuffled his pack, sending the impressively consistent Lewis Turner to left-back and bringing Matt Bloomer on to end Rotherham loanee Yates’ hour-long debut at right-back.
The anticipated Worcester storm failed to materialise against the ten men, though, and it was Town who carried the greater threat going forward.
There was one moment of concern for the home supporters as Daniels pulled up injured on the hour, but Weaver confirmed his substitution for Jack Emmett was only a precautionary measure.
Knowles could have doubled the lead when his follow up effort was cleared off the line, after Colbeck’s teasing cross was palmed into his path by Ross.
Substitute Emmett also curled a chance over with his first touch, while Colbeck had a fierce shot palmed away from the near post top corner.
Worcester were made to rely on crosses or shots from outside the box as Ellis, Shiels and Thirlwell maintained a rock-solid core.
Daniel Nti, who scored at the CNG Stadium in a City win 12 months ago, had one header loop well over the bar and substitute Andre Brown whisked an effort narrowly wide on the turn before blazing another over.
But the visitors were unable to breach Town’s resistance, as the hosts gathered a gritty three points which could prove pivotal come the end of the season.