Despite two superb strikes from Joe Leesley, Harrogate Town must triumph in a replay against Billericay Town next Tuesday, if they are to progress in this season’s FA Trophy – today’s game ended in a 2 – 2 draw.
Unchanged Harrogate had an early chance, when a foul on Josh Falkingham enabled Leesley to pick out George Thomson with his free kick, but the Blue’s defence quickly closed down the winger.
The visitors soon fired a warning shot across Town’s bows, when Calum Butcher broke down the left and centred across goal, but luckily nobody was able to take advantage.
However, after eleven minutes,two goals inside a minute brought the match to life.
It was the Blues who took the lead when giant defender, Rob Swaine, rose high above James Belshaw to head in Jamie O’Hara’s deep cross from the left wing.
Within seconds of the restart,Dom Knowles, finding his road to goal blocked down the middle,passed to Leesley on the left and he cut inside to beat,Alan Julian, with a trademark curling shot inside the far post.
Knowles was soon in action again when he played a one two with the advancing Ben Parker, but unfortunately the Town defender skied well over the bar.
The prolific, Jake Robinson,was causing the home defence problems and when he latched on to a long clearance from Julian, it took a diving save from Belshaw to turn his shot round the post.
Harrogate started the second half on the front foot,and a good move between Parker,Falkingham and Jack Emmett ended with Simon Ainge just failing to reach Emmett’s centre.
A Thomson cross was headed over his own bar by Joseph Kizzi,but Ainge’s header from Leesley’s corner was wide of the mark.
After sixtyfive minutes, Town’s persistence paid off when a low Emmett centre across the goal found Leesley on the left wing and he unleashed a powerful cross shot into the far corner, which left Julian helpless.
Unfortunately, Town’s lead was only to last for five minutes.
A Billericay corner was only cleared as far as Sam Deering on the edge of the area and although he scuffed his shot,Adam Cunnington was on hand to nod in from close range.
Town’s defence, with Ben Middleton and Warren Burrell having fine games, were able to keep the Blues at bay and it was another defender, Terry Kennedy,who almost saved Town the trouble of a replay, when with four minutes left he headed a Leesley free kick against the upright and saw the ball roll agonisingly along the goal line to safety.
- Belshaw,Middleton,Parker,Falkingham,Kennedy,Burrell, Thomson(Beck 84),Emmett,Ainge(c),Knowles(Thewlis 84), Leesley.
- Unused subs, Kitching, Cracknell, Agnew
- Booking Middleton
- Att 846
- Town, Man of the Match, Leesley
- Julian,Kizzi,Urquhart, Inman(c), Swaine, Deering, Modeste(Bricknell), O’Hara,Butcher(Waldren 88), Robinson, Cunnington
- Unused subs,Wheeler,Paine,Watt.
- Bookings, Julian, Swaine, Cunnington
- Scorers, Swaine 11, Cunnington 70.
- Referee,P Gibbons
Report by John Harrison