One of the success stories of the 2023/24 campaign, Harrogate Town continue to defy expectations at the top end of League Two. In a division that has become dominated by finance, the side from North Yorkshire are right up in the promotion picture.
That was shown last weekend when the Sulphurites went to leaders Stockport County and took a hard-earned point. Matty Daly picked out Dean Cornelius in the centre of the area, who was able to tap into an empty net to put Harrogate ahead.
Connor-Lemonheigh-Evans levelled the score on the half-hour mark, but the visitors withstood plenty of second-half pressure to take a precious point from Edgeley Park. Manager Simon Weaver was pleased with the result, speaking ahead of Saturday’s game against Colchester United.
“I felt like it was a win because they are the league leaders and are possibly going to be champions. They’ve got 10,000 fans behind them, but we came away heartened by producing a really good performance.
“We started both halves very strong and we took the game to Stockport. Of course, we had episodes where we had to defend and we were very stoic which is the way we have to continue to be if we want to keep accumulating points.
“When we scored the first goal at Stockport, the noise generated from the away end was very memorable. It was really up there in the moments for this season. What we want to do is produce that for the home fans on Saturday and keep entertaining.”
Last weekend’s contest against the league leaders required grit and determination to see out an important point. That did though take an impact, leaving Simon Weaver with a couple of injury concerns ahead of the clash with Colchester.
“We have to see the outcome of today’s training, which will be a little bit more intense than tomorrow. But they should be fresh, we gave them Sunday, Monday and Wednesday off again.
“On Faulsy (Matthew Foulds), it’s great that he came back into the team. We needed it because we were going to be short on numbers but he was outstanding again for the club.
“And we hope that Toby (Sims), after the next couple of days, can be in contention to start.”
Matty Daly has been one of the standout players of this Harrogate side, with eight assists and three goals since his summer arrival from Huddersfield Town.
The 22-year-old enjoyed a successful loan spell in North Yorkshire the season prior to his permanent move, scoring seven times and providing two assists in 35 League Two appearances.
But he has gone from strength to strength this campaign, helping his side mount an unlikely promotion push, which sees them outside the Play-Off places only on goal difference. His manager praised his performances this term following his assist last Saturday.
“I think it’s important for us to recognise Matty (Daly). In my opinion, he’s one of our most creative players. He’s certainly progressed in his own game and that’s down to his dedication.
“He’s approaching that mid-20s area of his career and I’m expecting continued progression from him. His skill from either foot into the ball manipulation creates opportunities for him and his teammates, and he’s exciting to watch.”
A change at the helm at Colchester United has breathed new light into their campaign. Danny and Nicky Cowley’s arrival has had exactly the desired effect, lifting them away from the drop zone.
Three draws and a win marks a good period since their arrival, including last weekend’s thrilling draw against Forest Green Rovers. A five-minute spell midway through the second period turned the game in favour of the U’s, before the away side levelled up the contest.
Despite Harrogate’s win in Essex back in October, Colchester have an excellent record against the Sulphurites in recent years. They have four straight wins in meetings between the two sides, easing to all three points in last January’s encounter at the EnviroVent stadium.
“Colchester had a great result against us last year at home where we were a bit under par in certain defence situations and we have to be better this time round.
“They fought their way back last week against Forest Green and got themselves into a really good position, but It’s going to be a difficult proposition on Saturday.
“They’ve got some strong players that are buoyed with the confidence from a couple of results now, with four points in their last two games.
Two of League Two’s in-form sides meet in what should be a tantalising game. Colchester will be no pushover for Harrogate as they look to move into the top seven, and they will have to inflict a first defeat over the Cowley’s since their arrival in Essex.
It was significant to hear Simon Weaver single out Matty Daly in his pre-match press conference; his form has been instrumental and if he continues this then he could be the difference against the U’s. The Town manager will also have one eye on Tuesday evening’s huge clash against Mansfield Town, although three points in two days time will be the priority right now for the North Yorkshire outfit.