Port Vale are set to take on League newcomers Harrogate Town for the first time at the weekend, Nathan Owen has spoken to some of their fans prior to the game…
Nathan Owen writes…
This Saturday the Vale host the newly promoted Harrogate Town. Despite being the league new boys, The Sulphurites are riding the crest of a wave – currently occupying their highest ever league position – one place behind the Vale, in third.
Manager Simon Weaver (formerly of Lincoln and Kidderminster) has been in charge since 2009. After seasons of steady progress, he has found considerable success in the last few years, guiding the North Yorkshire outfit to two promotions in three years – spending just two seasons in the National League.
In a time of considerable uncertainty, especially in football, it will be a rare occasion that the Vale will face such a settled side, keeping the majority of players that earned them promotion last year…
In a time of considerable uncertainty, especially in football, it will be a rare occasion that the Vale will face such a settled side, keeping the majority of players that earned them promotion last year. Town did however lose a key man as Jack Diamond returned to Sunderland after an impressive spell with them. Weaver replaced him though by bringing in Connor Kirby who started 34 games for Macclesfield in League 2 last season, including both league games against the Valiants.
This will be the first meeting between the two sides, and promises to be an interesting tactical affair. Both teams have started brightly in the league despite both exiting the Carabao cup in the second round. This season, both the Vale and Harrogate already have an opponent in common – both beating Tranmere on penalties.
For what will be a rare occasion this season, the Vale will have had no mid-week game in the run up to Saturday’s fixture. The same however, can’t be said for Harrogate – on Tuesday they booked themselves a trip to Wembley following the continuation of the FA Trophy. They hosted Notts County in what was a rerun of the National League 2020 Playoff Final, and booked their place in the final after a 1-0 victory.
On the opening day Harrogate made short work of Southend, to the tune of a comfortable 4-0 away win. In their previous league game, they succumbed to an 81st minute equaliser to share the spoils with Walsall.
I spoke to a number of Town fans as they give me their insight on their club and hopes for this Saturday, and this season:
‘The club has pretty much attacked the EFL head on with no fear. Promotion via the delayed play-offs meant only a two week break for the players, so they were pretty fit and ready to go. That momentum has been key here… On top of keeping a stable squad, recruitment has been decent in the offseason, with good, proven and top end National League players brought in. Weaver has shown consistency, and kept the starting 11 pretty much as finished last season with the addition of Aaron Martin up top and (bought from Guiseley the day before lockdown). Aaron is a no nonsense, hard-working and physical striker who has found his feet straight away at this level with a couple of goals to his name already. We play good, attacking football and play a passing game. The club wants to give it a real go this season and certainly not in the league to make up the numbers. Saturday is going to be a REAL test. Vale have started well and look like being one of the leading teams. If we can nick a draw, I’ll have a big smile!’
– Gavin Mills
‘I’m delighted with how the lads have transitioned into the new league and I’m confident we can stay well clear of the relegation zone, there’s a few players to look out fo, Aaron Martin is a real hard-working pressing forward who won’t give any defenders time on the ball, and Ryan Fallowfield’s crossing has been class, I don’t know much about Port Vale, but I’m going to say 2-2 draw – hopefully the solid start to the season will see us with a mid-table finish.’
– Dan Lokie
‘League Two has been pretty much as I expected – the difference from the top half of the Conference is not that big really. The amount of clubs in difficulty with their finances is always going to make them vulnerable and make starting the season hard – Bolton trying to get 17 new players together was never going to be easy.
For us, Muldoon and Martin are two to watch. Jack Muldoon has been with us a couple of years now and is handy in front of goal. Martin was a surprise signing but Simon Weaver seems to spot them. Great link-up play.
Where will we finish? Top half, maybe a tilt for the playoffs. The squad is pretty stable and a great team spirit. They’re used to winning, and heads don’t drop if we ship a goal. Financially the club is also very stable and with the likes of Jon Stead in the bench, it’s a good team. People underestimate just how good this group can be.
Saturday is a tough call, going for 1 – 2 as a fan, however a draw is pretty likely’.
– Adam John
Follow Nathan Owen – @officiallynathe