In what was just the clubs third season in the Football League, Harrogate Town drew 1-1 with Rochdale in their final game of the campaign to finish 19th in League Two. It was enough to secure their place in the fourth tier of English football for at least another season, but it was arguably just short of what the expectations were from Sulphurites fans at the start of the campaign.
After victories over Swindon Town (3-0) and Gillingham (2-0) in their opening four matches, there was a lot of optimism about the 2022/23 campaign. However, they then lost seven of their next eight fixtures, with just one win coming between the 20th of August and the 18th of November.
A strong end came to 2022, with three consecutive wins coming against Mansfield Town (3-0), Rochdale (4-1) and Grimsby Town (3-2). Those results eased any concerns about relegation as it moved them up the table away from the drop zone.
In 2023, Harrogate became draw specialists. They drew 11 of their 23 fixtures. Those results meant they were able to move away from the drop zone, but it was not enough points to secure a play-off spot. Instead, those places went to Stockport County, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Salford City. As of the 16th of May, it is Bradford City that are the 2/1 favourites with Betway Sports to gain promotion into League One from those four teams.
Luke Armstrong Led the Team in Goals
It was another excellent campaign for Harrogate striker Luke Armstrong last season. He was the teams leading scorer, with 16 goals coming in the EFL division. That left him fifth in the top scorer strandings behind Andy Cook, Sam Hoskins, Kristian Dennis and Omar Bogle respectively. Considering those players featured for teams that finished much higher in the table, Armstrong should be pleased with his contribution.
4′ GOAL FOR TOWN!!!!
Luke Armstrong gets on the end of a cross and diverts home
Watch live: https://t.co/LxaJCWe3Wt
— Harrogate Town AFC (@HarrogateTown) March 31, 2023
The former Middlesbrough and Salford City forward signed for Harrogate for an undisclosed fee in June 2021. He has proved to be smart business, as he already scored 30 goals in just two seasons for the Sulphurites.
Armstrong is likely to attract interest from other clubs this summer, so Harrogate must do all they can to keep him at Wetherby Road. As per the BBC report, he signed a contract extension last summer which keeps him at the club until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.
Rory McArdle to Hang Up His Boots
Experienced defender Rory McArdle has played for Harrogate for the last two seasons at the back end of his career. The former Sheffield Wednesday player has now decided to retire from professional football. He intends to move into coaching now.
SW on Rory McArdle
ll be quite sad in some ways, for both him and his family but itâ€™s part of his transition into the next stage. We are proud to have had him and he has been inspirational around the place. #ProudToBeTown pic.twitter.com/y2n3LR9Q87
— Harrogate Town AFC (@HarrogateTown) May 7, 2023
McArdle made over 400 league appearances in his career. Manager Simon Weaver has spoken very highly of him since he announced his decision to retire. His experience in the squad has helped many players who are in the early stages of their professional careers.
Dior Angus, Max Wright and Alex Pattison will also leave the club now their contracts have expired. The five loan players: Matty Foulds, Tom Eastman, Kazeem Olaigbe, Matty Daly and Danny Grant have returned to their parent clubs. It means 18 players remain under contract going into next season.
What Does Next Season Hold for Harrogate?
In their three consecutive seasons in League Two, Harrogate have finished 17th, 19th and 19th respectively. The first aim next year will be to improve on those positions. In all three of those campaigns, they have got off to a good start but have been unable to sustain it.
Weaver has a squad with a lot of Football League experience now. His budget is unlikely to be huge this summer, but he will aim for quality over quantity, as he bids to push his side up the table.
Next seasons League Two is expected to be wide open, so it may not take much improvement to become promotion contenders. As per the Reuters report, newcomers Wrexham will be expected to be at the top end of the table due to the financial support behind them, while MK Dons, Morecambe, Accrington Stanley and Forest Green are the teams dropping down from League One.
The EFL fixtures for the 2023/24 League Two season are released on Thursday, 22nd of June at 10 am. The opening game of the 2023/24 campaign will take place on Saturday, 5th August.