Opposition Report – Harrogate Town

Harrogate Town will be looking to spring a cup upset this weekend as they face a Blackpool side fresh off an unfortunate 3-2 defeat to Doncaster. This is Harrogate’s debut season in the Football League, following their National League play-off victory in the summer of 2020. They will be hoping to take some momentum in the fixture after an impressive 1-0 victory against Nigel Clough’s Mansfield on Tuesday night.

How do Harrogate set up?

Harrogate predominantly play a 4-4-2, setting up with a deep defensive line, relying on the physical element of their came to cause problems for the opposition. They are very much a stereotypical League Two side in that sense. However, they have shown at times that they are willing to match up the opposition where required, as they showed against Leyton Orient in an attempt to match their 4-3-3. It didn’t go to plan though in an unconvincing 3-0 defeat.

How has their season gone so far?

Given it is their first season in the Football League I’m sure they would have bitten your hand off to be sitting 12th in League Two at the end of November. They have been very inconsistent winning five and losing five in the League with four draws. The same can be said for their other cup performances with one win, one draw and one defeat in the EFL Trophy, alongside a 3-0 defeat to West Brom in the 2nd round of the League Cup.

Whilst the League Two form has been inconsistent as a whole, it has particularly tailed off in recent weeks. Their recent 1-0 win against Mansfield ended a run of six games without a win. It’s important to note that they don’t score that many goals also. They have scored 15 goals in 14 League games, four of which came on the opening day against Southend. Similarly to us, when they win they tend to win by the odd goal. Given the lack of goals it is vital that they don’t concede too many and they have only conceded an average of a goal a game in the League, which for a newly promoted side is a good return.

What are the stats saying?

There is an average of 2.07 goals a game in Harrogate’s league games this season, compared to 2.46 in Blackpool’s league matches

57% of their matches have over 1.5 goals so it is clear that they are tight and organised at the back, whilst also being quite passive on the attacking front, even more so in recent weeks.

They have an overall attacking xG rating of 1.42 and have interestingly had a higher rating away 1.53xG to home 1.28xG, while their concession xG rating is 1.18 which is above the Football League average. Blackpool’s is 1.46 in attack and 0.99 defensively.

As you can see below (courtesy of xG_Data on Twitter) from their last match against Mansfield, they created an array of good chances and really should have scored more than they did in that 1-0 win. Most importantly, this is the first time since their 0-0 draw with Stevenage on 27th October that Harrogate out performed an opposition on this front. They have been very impotent in their attacking play in recent weeks.

What should we expect?

We should be expecting a tough test on Saturday. The difference will be whether we are able to break down a team that will have little intention of trying to play against us. When they have been so impotent on the attacking front in recent weeks, relying on their defensive capabilities to see them through, they aren’t suddenly going to come at us. They will set up how we expect them to, 4-4-2 with a deep defensive line that will look to do the basics well and stay in the game as long as possible.

I haven’t really seen us have to force play consistently with a high tempo to try and break down an organised, structured low block. Even against Eastbourne, they came out and had a go against us which came to our advantage. This will be a game for our technical players to show their individual quality in order to break a team down because we won’t be able to rely as much on the counter attack and pace in behind like we have done most weeks.

I fully expect us to come through this game with relative ease and it will be a big boost in confidence for our side to break down a low block. They will be able to prove to themselves they have the ability to beat any type of opposition. It will more than likely be a low scoring game and we have to be patient and controlled in our play, even when the clock is running down, to ensure that we get the better of Harrogate on Saturday.

Harrogate Key Players: Jack Muldoon and Calvin Miller

Stats Provided by: xG_Data & Footy Stats

Image: Halifax Courier

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