Harrogate Town 2-2 Curzon Ashton: JP Pittman brace undone by sucker-punch penalty

Harrogate Town sustained a heavy sucker punch as a last-gasp penalty sent them to a 2-2 draw against Curzon Ashton in National League North.

Saturday, 3rd September 2016, 4:37 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd September 2016, 5:51 pm
Harrogate Town players Joe Leesley and Luke Shiels share messages of support for injured Lloyd Kerry after scoring. Kerry fractured his cheekbone in the win over FC Halifax Town on a Bank Holiday Monday (Photo: Craig Hurle)

Town, in search of a fifth straight win, had to settle for a draw after holding the lead for over an hour.

Although Niall Cummings’ spot-kick with the last kick of the game will make this feel like a loss, Simon Weaver’s side remain unbeaten eight games into the season.

Jon Paul Pittman had a six-minute brace with goals in the 25thand 31st minute, before Matthew Flynn kept Curzon in the game with a strike ten minutes from half-time.

At the end of a scrappy second half played in teeming rain, Tom Platt felled Joe Guest in the area and Cummings converted the subsequent penalty.

Simon Weaver made one change to the side that beat Halifax 1-0 on Bank Holiday Monday and that was enforced, as Lloyd Kerry was replaced by Andi Thanoj in midfield.

It took the home side a matter of seconds to register their first shot on target, as deputising left back Lewis Turner forced Curzon captain Hakan Burton into an early, if elementary,save.

Joe Leesley was at the heart of Town’s attacking endeavours and he drove at the heart of the defence from the left only to be foiled in the box by Daniel Shaw’s block.

The top of National League North

John Flanagan’s side gradually settled into the contest, as England C keeper Peter Crook was equal to Chris Rowney’sdownward header from close range.

Crook was called into action once again by Paul Ennis’ low drive that necessitated a sharp stop at the near post.

On 25 minutes, Jon Paul Pittman broke the deadlock with a composed finish.

Tom Platt picked the ball up, turned, and slid a pass into Pittman’s feet to put the striker through on goal. With no offside flag, the summer signing from Grimsby took his time and slotted past the keeper with his instep from the top of the box.

The top of National League North

Six minutes later and it was 2-0.

Leesley’s set pieces are proving almost impossible for opposing sides to handle and Pittman was on the end of a vicious inswinging delivery, the striker scrambling a scrappy effort over the line from seven yards to double the lead.

Town have enjoyed several such devastating spells in games this season and given the opposition a way back into the game- and that’s exactly what happened.

In the 35th minute, Paul Ennis’ free-kick found centre-half Matthew Flynn unmarked, who added a glancing flick to send the ball into the bottom corner past Crook.

Auxiliary right-back Joe Colbeck offered enterprise going forward but Curzon repeatedly made inroads down Harrogate’s flank on that side.

After the break, Joe Guest’s chipped cross from the left byline found Ennis in the area, who couldn’t keep the bouncing ball down as his shot whistled past Crook’s upright.

Guest whipped another centre over and Cummings drew a save from an increasingly occupied Crook in the home goal.

Leesley continued to press Town’s case, drifting off the opposite flank and cracking a powerful 20-yard effort straight at Burton.

Weaver has implored his team not to sit too deep in the second half of games this season but they were once again guilty of doing so.

He introduced frontmen Jordan Robertson in the 58th minute and Chib Chilaka in the 71st yet Town remained pinned in their own territory for the majority of the last half hour.

Chilaka did create a chance with his first touch, flashing a shot right across the face of goal that found no finishing touch.

Curzon substitute James Baillie had two fine chances to snatch at least a point for his side; first, curling a shot over the bar from range before planting a strike onto the right-hand post with two minutes of normal time to play.

Although Chilaka earned a corner late on, the away side continued to press forward and won a penalty with seconds to go.

Left back Guest tried to cut in from the flank and Tom Platt, screening across, clipped the defender who went flying over the outstretched leg. It didn’t take long for referee Darren Strain to point to the spot.

Niall Cummings sent Crook the wrong way to give Curzon a point that, on balance, they probably deserved.