James Walshaw helps Harrogate Town to Leeds United double

Harrogate Town v Leeds United.
Harrogate Town v Leeds United.

The newly-assembled Harrogate Town squad kicked off their pre-season campaign by easing past Leeds United Under 21s 2-0 at the CNG Stadium.

Goals either side of half-time gave Town a 2014 double over their neighbours, having beaten them 3-1 in January.

New signing James Walshaw headed home his first goal in a yellow and black shirt midway through the opening half.

Triallist Luke Dean, making a return to the CNG Stadium after leaving just over a year ago, then smacked home a second to seal a comfortable victory.

The Leeds youngsters managed to hit the frame of the goal late on, however the temperature of the match never rose to the levels of the weather.

The match was nothing more than an exercise for Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town, with United sending a squad of players all under 20.

The supporters were presented a first opportunity to see the pack of new signings Weaver has made over the summer as the gaffer named a strong 11 for the first 45 minutes.

Eight new recruits lined up next to old boys Ashley Worsfold, Adam Nowakowski and Shane Killock, with Jake Speight the only summer recruit missing.

Prior to kick-off, both teams and the 581-strong crowd paid tribute to former Town goalkeeper Stuart Fountain in a minute’s silence.

Fountain, who made a record 308 appearances for Town as a goalkeeper, passed away last week.

Following the silence, Town made the better of the early possession and, on a pitch narrowed by three metres each wing, they caused problems from wider areas.

Simon Lenighan, playing against the team that released him at the end of last season, almost scored with his first touch in a Town shirt, but his drive canoned into a defender’s chest and out for a corner.

From the resultant delivery, Worsfold rose well to head onto the cross bar before midfielder Lloyd Kerry blazed the rebound high over the changing rooms.

Town’s new defensive pairing of Killock and former York City man Dave McGurk kept the unexposed Leeds side at bay.

The visitors regularly showed neat touches and good technique, but lacked a killer instinct to break through their more experienced rivals.

The hot conditions made for a relaxed feel to the first half, and new Town goalkeeper Phil Barnes rarely touched the ball in his first appearance.

After the mid-half drinks break, Town eventually made the breakthrough. Walshaw found himself in the right place at the right time, as he so often did in Altrincham’s promotion campaign last year, and he nodded in Lloyd Kerry’s corner.

Both managers made wholesale changes at the interval, with a mix of youngsters and trailists causing the usual pre-season “Who’s Who” game on the sidelines.

Dean, returning to Town after a spell at Bradford Park Avenue, played behind former Harrogate Railway forward Louis Swain, with Dom Rowe attacking from a wide left position.

The midfielder was lively, and got his reward on 59 minutes when a powerful strike went through Leeds stopper Eric Grimes’ grasp.

Minutes later, Swain, on trial after his release from Bradford City at the end of last year, could have made it three but he headed wide.

Leeds finished the stronger of the teams, and Piteu Crouz hit their first shot on target with 20 minutes to go - however reserve keeper Peter Crook collected it easily.

Zimbabwean talent Munyaradzi Mbanje then carved out two opportunities, as he forced Crook into a low save before crashing another onto the crossbar.

The energetic Swain then dribbled past two Leeds defenders before sending a shot-cum-cross right across the box.

Substitute Mbanje was often in the thick of United’s attacking play, and after turning out of a tight space down the left-hand side, he forced Crook to tip over a brilliant shot destined for the top corner.

In reply, Town should have turned the score into a rout as Dom Rowe found space in the area, only to lash over after Swain’s drive was blocked.