Pompey’s FA Cup opponents Harrogate endure ‘terrible’ defensive display at Eastleigh
HARROGATE Town turned in a ‘terrible’ defensive display in their last outing before providing banana skin opposition for Pompey in the FA Cup first round.
While Pompey were letting in a late leveller against Oxford, around 20 miles away from Fratton Park the in-form Yorkshire club were crashing to a surprise 4-2 National League loss at Eastleigh - watched by a hardy travelling band of just 21 away fans.
Harrogate entered the match having won six of their previous seven league games and drawn the other to move up to fourth in the top flight of non-league football.
Throw in an FA Cup fourth qualifying round win at FC Halifax and Simon Weaver’s men had won seven and drawn three in an unbeaten run stretching back to September 7.
In a nutshell, Pompey could hardly have been drawn against tougher non-league opposition in the FA Cup.
But despite taking an early lead at the Silverlake Stadium through winger Brendan Kiernan, Town’s normally reliable defence was ripped apart by two players at the opposite end of their careers.
Veteran Scott Rendell, 33, bagged a hat-trick while 21-year-old right winger Sam Smart terrorised left back George Smith with his pace and trickery.
You would never have known Town had only conceded six goals in their previous 10 games.
It will interest Pompey fans to know Harrogate have only let in one goal in their last six home league matches.
‘We gifted Eastleigh goals - three of the four were terrible from our point of view,’ grumbled Weaver afterwards.
‘Their system, using wing backs, dominated our system. It was a difficult and trying afternoon for us.
‘We were indecisive at times and allowed them to get too many crosses into the box, putting us on the back foot.’
Kenny Jackett will no doubt have had Harrogate watched prior to next Monday’s BT Sport televised trip to the CNG Stadium.
As a result, he will know Weaver rarely switches from his favoured 4-4-2 system.
Town were virtually at full strength at Eastleigh, missing only centre half Connor Hall through injury.
Full backs Ryan Fallowfield and Smith endured a tough afternoon against Eastleigh’s 3-5-2 system which featured ex-Pompey midfielder Danny Hollands in a makeshift defence due to a severe injury crisis.
Harrogate like to get the ball wide to Kiernan on the right and Sunderland loanee Jack Diamond on the left, while striker Mark Beck - top scorer in the league last season with 15 goals - is an old-fashioned style target man.
Captain Josh Falkingham, the holding midfielder, is another key man in the centre while Lincoln loanee Alex Bradley is more of an attacking midfielder.
Both Diamond and Bradley have been made available by their parent clubs to face Pompey.
The most well-known member of Weaver’s squad, though, won’t be taking any part in the FA Cup tie. Peripatetic striker Jon Stead, 36, is suspended after being sent off for the second time this season in last week’s 2-1 win against Barnet.