FC Halifax Town face a Harrogate side needing to sharpen up in-front of goal on Tuesday, according to Rhys Howell from the Harrogate Advertiser.
Harrogate enjoyed a sensational first season in the National League last year, finishing in the play-offs.
But this campaign has got off to a poor start, with just three wins in their first 12 games.
“There have been a couple of really poor performances,” says Howell. “Dagenham and Redbridge away and Dover at home stand out.
“There have been plenty of decent displays along the way as well, but this team has too often struggled to get out of second gear.
“It is however important to remember that had Town begun last season like this then nobody would have had any complaints. It is only because of their fast start to life in the National League, which raised expectations so much, that there is an air of negativity around the way things have gone so far this term.”
Howell feels luck has not been on Harrogate’s side so far this season though, and that results do not necessarily reflect performances.
“They battered Woking away and lost 1-0 to a deflected goal. They should have beaten Fylde on the road but Jon Stead has a ‘goal’ disallowed for a very harsh handball decision.
“Stead was then sent off having scored twice to put Town 2-1 up at Torquay - another refereeing decision widely acknowledged as being dreadful - and the 10 men went on to lose that game despite being in control when it was 11 v 11.
“Then, on Saturday, they did enough to beat Maidenhead and were 1-0 up when, out of nowhere, Shamir Fenelon put a worldie in the top corner from 25 yards. Something similar also happened at Torquay.
“That said, their finishing has also let them down and if they’d been more ruthless they would be significantly better off.
“They missed penalties against Solihull Moors and Notts County with those games very much in the balance and have spurned numerous good opportunities in open play, too.
“For me, that lack of a clinical edge has been their biggest issue thus far.”
Howell says right winger Brendan Kiernan, a summer arrival from Welling, has been an exciting addition to Simon Weaver’s squad.
“He always wants the ball and goes past defenders for fun. His quick feet are something to behold.
“He has already contributed a couple of goals and a few more assists and if he can improve his end product he’s a match-winner every single time he goes out on the pitch.”
“Lincoln City-loanee Alex Bradley, who is an attacking central midfielder, has come in and done very well too.
“He’s very comfortable in possession, brings a fluidity to Town’s attacking play and carries a real threat around the edge of the box.”
Howell says Harrogate will try to keep the ball on the deck and pass it where possible.
“They’ll often play out from the goalkeeper, and try and progress through the thirds that way. “They also have enough height to go direct when they need to, though this tactic doesn’t always suit them.”
When asked if there were any weaknesses Halifax could exploit, Howell said: “If Halifax can nullify Town’s attacking threat and stay compact and organised behind the ball then there have been a couple of games this season where, in similar circumstances, Simon Weaver’s team have seemed to run out of ideas and it’s all just gone a bit flat in an attacking sense.”