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Match Previews

MATCH PREVIEW: Swindon Town vs Harrogate Town

Robins braced for Sulphurites as they bid to make it back to back league wins…

24 February 2023

Match Previews

MATCH PREVIEW: Swindon Town vs Harrogate Town

Robins braced for Sulphurites as they bid to make it back to back league wins…

24 February 2023

Harrogate Town are the next visitors to the County Ground as they make the trip from North Yorkshire to SN1 tomorrow, Saturday 25 February.

Jody Morris’ side are looking to build on their victory over Salford in their last EFL Sky Bet League Two outing, knowing three points will push them back into play-off contention.

With the countdown well and truly underway, we’ve pieced together some information on our next opponents.

The lowdown…

Harrogate are bidding to retain their EFL status for the third consecutive season.

The Sulphurites short but proud history dates back to 1919 when they were formed following World War One.

Their first competitive game took place in August of that year, where they beat Horsforth 1-0.

The team disbanded in 1932 and three years later was revived as Harrogate Hotspurs, before the climax of World War Two prompted a return to the original name of Harrogate Town.

Under a new yet not so new name, they competed in the Yorkshire League for many decades, and it was only in 1982 when they became founding members of the Northern Counties East Football League, that they enjoyed a change of scenery.

After five seasons at that level, Harrogate switched again, becoming founding members of the Northern Premier League's new First Division in 1987–88.

A total of 15 seasons later they celebrated the title as they earned promotion to the Premier Division. They also reached the first round proper of the FA Cup later that year.

After consolidating their status, Harrogate were again part of the foundations of a new league, this time, the Yorkshire outfit formed the National League North in 2004.

A year later, they even held Football League Torquay United to a first round FA Cupreplay.

In 2011, manager Simon Weaver, who had assumed the reins two years prior, found out his new boss was actually his father when Irving Weaver became the clubs new chairman - a post he still holds today.

The Yorkshire outfit turned professional in 2017 - a decision which was quickly rewarded as they won promotion to the fifth tier the following campaign.

In their first National League season, Harrogate were denied back-to-back promotions after falling short in the play-offs, however, the following term they vanished the ghosts by beating Notts County at Wembley to reach the EFL for the first time in their history.

They also won the 2019/20 edition of the FA Trophy, however due to the COVID outbreak, the final didn't take place until the following season, which made Harrogate the first EFL side to participate in the competition.

Their first Football League game saw Simon Weaver's men thrash Southend 4-0 away, and to date, their two seasons in League Two have brought respectable 17th and 19th place finishes.

DID YOU KNOW?: Harrogate Town earned their nickname, The Sulphurites, thanks to the spa town's sulphur springs.

The manager…

The Harrogate Town gaffer is currently the longest serving manager in the top four divisions of the English game.

Approaching 14 years at Wetherby Road, he sits comfortably ahead of Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth in the rankings - leading his counterpart by over threeyears, although this week saw the Wanderers boss switch allegiances to QPR.

Weaver was first appointed player manager in 2009, taking over a side languishing in National League North, a division in which both he and Harrogate would remain in for nine years.

However, in 2018, he added a first promotion to his CV as he guided the club to the fifth tier via the play-offs. He would then only have to wait a further two years for his next.

In 2020, he led Harrogate into the EFL thanks to a 3-1 play-off final victory over Notts County, and across more than 700 games, the 45-year old's win ratio sits at just under 40%.

What happened last time…

Swindon will want to forget their last meeting with Harrogate when the two sides kicked off the new 2022/23 league campaign at The EnviroVent Stadium at the end of July last year.

In Scott Lindsey’s first competitive game in charge, The Robins were beaten 3-0 in North Yorkshire courtesy of goals from Alex Pattison, Matt Daly and Jack Muldoon.

At 2-0 down, former midfielder Ben Gladwin missed a 65th minute penalty to get Town back into the game before Muldoon’s goal on 76 compounded a heavy opening day defeat.

Previous meetings…

Before the reverse fixture earlier this season, Swindon and Harrogate had only every met twice previously, with both of those fixtures coming last term.

A 1-1 draw back in November 2021 at the County Ground saw Town come back from a goal down after Jack Diamond gave the visitors a first half lead.

But with seven minutes remaining, Jack Payne converted from the spot to rescue a point for The Robins.

The second game of that season saw Town emerge with all three points in fine fashion, recording a resounding 4-1 win in North Yorkshire.

Braces for loanees Louie Barry and Josh Davison did the damage, with Luke Armstrong’s last minute goal proving a mere consolation.

Harrogate’s story so far…

Just the solitary victory in their last ten league games has left The Sulphurites in a precarious position in the table.

They currently sit in twentieth, just three points above the relegation zone.

That last win arrived at the beginning on February as they conquered promotion-chasing Carlisle 1-0 away, but you have to go back to Boxing Day for their last three points prior.

That day they defeated Grimsby Town 3-2 at home, which they claimed off the back of a comprehensive 4-1 away thrashing of Rochdale in their first fixture of December.

It’s three draws for Simon Weaver’s side of late which they’ll look to take some heart from, with nothing to chose between their recent clashes against Grimsby, Crewe and Salford respectively.

Players to watch…

Mark Oxley

The experienced stopper has started the last two games for The Sulphites following a long stint as their second in command.

The 32-year-old’s experience dates back to starting his career with local side Rotherham United in 2007. From there, a move into the Premier League materialised with Hull City.

He would make his debut for the Tigers in 2013, however, further regular opportunities would be in short supply which led to an array of loan spells, with most of his first-team action coming at Oldham Athletic and Scottish side Hibs.

He would later make the switch north of the border on a permanent basis in 2015.

Before joining Harrogate in 2021, the keeper lined up for Southend where he was voted Fans Player of the Season and Players' Player in 2018.

Tom Eastman

The seasoned professional joined Harrogate last month from fellow League Two strugglers Colchester Town.

He began his career aged just eight with Ipswich Town, and would go on to make 13 appearances for the Tractor Boys before switching his loyalties to The U’s.

It was while with the Essex club the 31-year-old built a legacy.

Over the course of 12 seasons, the defender appeared 466 times for The U’s, going on to be named their Player of the Year on four separates occasions.

Standing tall at 6-foot three-inches, Eastman netted twice against Swindon back in 2019.

Anthony O’Connor

The Irishman is another January addition at Wetherby Road.

His career began in 2008 in the Blackburn academy, but despite failing to make an appearance for Rovers, O’Connor was offered several opportunities to enhance his game thanks to an array of loan spells.

After making 114 appearances over the course of three of them at Burton, Torquay, and Plymouth, the defender joined Argyle on a permanent basis.

He’d go on to play at Home Park for just the one season before joining former club Burton for a second time, and in his solitary season with The Brewers, he helped the club into the Championship - an achievement which prompted Scottish giants Aberdeen to sign him.

He later returned to England in 2018, going on to make a combined 187 outings for Bradford City and Morecambe respectively.

Alex Pattison

The 25-year-old is enjoying a fine season to date, leading the assist tally for The Sulphurites.

The midfielder netted Harrogate’s first goal of the season against Swindon back in July.

Aged just nine, Pattison started life in the Middlesbrough academy where he’d latergain his first taste of men’s football on loan at York City.

After being released from Boro, Pattison put pen to paper with Wycombe Wanderers in 2019, and while at The Chairboys, he helped them gain promotion to the Championship.

He has represented Harrogate since 2021 and netted nine times during the 2021/22 campign.

Kazeem Olaigbe

Belgian-born Olaigbe was another one of Simon Weaver’s January recruits.

The winger arrives on loan from Premier League side Southampton having originally joined them from Anderlecht.

He spent the first half of the season on loan at Scottish outfit Ross County, where the 20-year-old made his professional debut before featuring a further 24 times, scoring on two occasions.

Last Saturday, Olaigbe was involved in both Harrogate goals scoring and assisting in the draw against Crewe.

Jack Muldoon

Another one of Harrogate’s more experienced squad members, Muldoon opened the scoring last Saturday in a dramatic score draw with Crewe.

Despite only sitting on four league goals this term, the 33-year-old has struck double figures in each of his four seasons at the club, finishing as The Sulphurites top scorer in each of those.

With it came the honour of netting Harrogate’s first home and away goal in the EFL.

Before representing the Yorkshire outfit, Muldoon featured for both Lincoln and Rochdale among an array of non-league sides.

During his time at Sincil Bank, he was part of The Imps team to lift the National League title and reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup.

Luke Armstrong

The forward currently leads The Sulphurites scoring charts this season with 10 league goals.

The 26-year-old learned his trade in the academies of Middlesbrough and Birmingham before joining Cowdenbeath in Scotland. However, he found opportunities hard to come by in Scotland so returned to England where he enjoyed a prolific season with Blyth Spartans.

This drew the attention of his former employers Middlesbrough, but after failing to make an impact back at his boyhood club, he joined Salford which in turn led to a fruitful spell with Hartlepool on loan.

During his tenure with The Pools, Armstrong plundered 15 goals which helped inspire promotion to the EFL.

He has represented Harrogate since 2021, finding the back of the net 24 times.

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