The Insider: Harrogate will fancy their chances against Portsmouth - and why a former Preston and Stoke striker refused to play against them last season

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Harrogate Advertiser sports editor, Rhys Howell, gives the lowdown on Pompey’s non-league FA Cup opposition Harrogate Town…

There’s no doubt Harrogate’s FA Cup clash against former winners Pompey is going to be a massive occasion.

It feels like a reward for the money and effort that has been put into the club over the past few years.

They were pushing for promotion to the Football League in their first campaign in the National League last season, but missed out in the play-offs.

And they are up there again this term as they look to go one better and reach the fourth tier of English football.

This is a game that Harrogate will go into feeling that they are capable of winning.

James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham

James Belshaw. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Home advantage could play a part, as could the artificial surface.

It may be a cliché, but it’s the magic of the Cup and anything can happen.

It’s fair to say that FA Cup fever has gripped the town in the build up to this.

Speaking to the manager and a couple of players after drawing Pompey, it was the one they wanted.

For them to get it at home as well was an added bonus.

You’ve got the 2008 winners coming to Harrogate in the first round.

There’s also the added factor of the 3G pitch at Wetherby Road.

It’s not something Pompey will be used to and could be a bit of a leveller when the teams meet.

When Harrogate played York at home last season, former Preston and Stoke striker Jon Parkin actually refused to play on it.

It can take time for teams to get used to it, especially for a Football League side who will have played very little on an artificial pitch.

Harrogate also had a bit of an unknown factor about them in their first season in the National League last term.

A lot of teams just seemed to turn up expecting to beat them.

It’s not exactly a football hotbed in the town.

Of course, Harrogate will be underdogs against Pompey.

However, they will fancy their chances and on any given day they are capable of getting a result.

Although, Harrogate go into it on the back of a heavy 4-2 defeat at Eastleigh.

They were on a 10-game unbeaten run prior to that, but it was a defensive horror show at the Silverlake Stadium.

I guess the team will be thinking it was better to get that out of the way against Eastleigh, rather than for it to arrive against Pompey.

Goalkeeper James Belshaw is a big player and has been for several seasons.

He’s going to be important on what could be a busy evening for him at Wetherby Road.

When Josh Falkingham is on form, Harrogate seem to follow suit.

The midfielder can dictate play in a quarterback-type role.

There’s also the tricky Brendan Kiernan, who’s been firing in front of goal this season.

The winger, who can play on either flank, is top scorer with six goals so far.

Harrogate will need everyone to step up, but they’ll be hopeful of causing a shock in the weekend’s final FA Cup first-round fixture.