Vanarama National League South action takes a back seat this weekend as we welcome Harrogate Town to Clarence Park for a mouth-watering FA Trophy Second Round clash.
The Saints go into the game on the back of an impressive 2-1 victory against fellow play-off chasing side Chelmsford City, a game that saw two unlikely scorers in Kieran Monlouis, and Layne Eadie, secure all three points. That result meant the Saints moved within one point of the top seven and six off of joint leaders Dartford and Havant & Waterlooville.
To reach this stage of the competition the Saints have had to overcome National League South rivals Poole Town (3-1) and Whitehawk (2-1). Victory over Poole at Clarence Park was secured by Rhys Murrell-Williamson’s spectacular double in the final twenty minutes, while the tie at Whitehawk saw Monlouis score the winner when he turned home a Moore-Azille flick on.
Ian Allinson has an almost fully fit squad to choose from for this weekend’s tie, although Sam Merson continues to be a doubt having missed out against Chelmsford as a result an injury he picked up in the New Year’s Day game against Hemel Hempstead Town. Defenders Harold Joseph and Tom Gardiner are both available and could be in-line for a return as they continue their recoveries from injuries that ruled them out of most of December’s fixtures.
Saturday’s opponent’s, Harrogate Town, currently find themselves in second place in the National League North with 50 points from 25 games, two points ahead of Brackley in third place and two points off of first placed and fellow full-time side Salford City.
The Yorkshire based club have won three of their last five league games, picking up maximum points against North Ferriby United (3-0), Darlington (3-0) and Chorley (1-0). However, they also suffered defeats against Darlington (3-1), which was the first leg of their festive double header against The Quakers and Nuneaton Town (2-1). Tuesday night’s loss saw Nuneaton Town rush into a 1-0 lead before Terry Kennedy equalised towards the end of the first half, however it was the hosts who re-took the lead 11 minutes after the break and in the end Harrogate Town could not find an equaliser despite plenty of late pressure.
Away from the league and Town defeated Darlington 3-2 away from home in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy before impressively getting past National League side Wrexham. Victory at the Racecourse Ground was secured through Mark Beck’s first and second goals for the club, who had himself joined from their 3rd Qualifying Round opponent’s Darlington just a few weeks earlier.
While the Harrogate Town squad is one full of talent throughout, winger Joe Leesley has possibly been the stand out performer for Town this season and will certainly be a danger man to watch. The England C international, who joined the club from Alfreton before the 16/17 season, has already scored 15 goals in all competitions and has assisted another 18. The 23 year old’s form has sparked interest from other clubs, however he has already expressed his desire to stay and help Harrogate’s push in both the league and FA Trophy.
With a victory this Saturday Harrogate will equal their best ever progress in the competition, having previously reached the Third Round during the 1999/2000 season.
However, the Saints themselves go into the game with plenty of confidence following last weekend’s victory over Chelmsford City and know that a win will see them one step closer to Wembley.
Make sure to get down to Clarence Park and cheer the team through to the next round!
Come On You Saints!
Please Note: If the game ends in a draw after 90 minutes the tie will go to a replay on Tuesday evening at Harrogate Town’s Wetherby Road ground. Kick-off 7:45pm.