Ahead of tonight's first ever meeting against newly-promoted Harrogate Town, we spoke to Rhys Howell of the Yorkshire Post and Harrogate Advertiser...
- What were Harrogate Town’s expectations this season?
"Obviously it was a step into the unknown with this being the club’s first-ever season in the EFL, so there was no real expectation to start with. My opinion before a ball was kicked was that finishing above the bottom two was the only thing that mattered, and I think that view was shared by plenty of supporters.
"That said, I had a feeling that this group of players could go on and challenge for a place in the top seven. When you factor in the momentum from last season’s promotion, the team’s mindset and the quality of their squad, it’s no surprise to see them sixth in the table ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Stevenage.
"The feeling among the players and management was that the could do well this year and certainly weren’t coming into League Two just to make up the numbers. Given how well they have started the season, I do feel that expectation levels have now risen across the board."
- How would you summarise how they have coped with life in the EFL?
"They have coped just fine. They have been good value for the four wins and two draws they have picked up thus far and will undoubtedly feel that they should have at least one more point on the board. Town were beaten 2-1 at Colchester last time out in a game which they dominated for long, long periods. They had enough chances to have been out of sight by half-time and should never have lost the match."
- What has been the key to the club’s success in recent times?
"Consistency in selection has been pretty important and means that the majority of the squad know each other’s games inside out. The core of the group that got the club promoted out of the sixth tier in 2018 remains at Wetherby Road. Indeed, seven of the starting XI from Town’s opening-day rout of Southend were in the match-day squad for the club’s 2017/18 National League North play-off final triumph.
"They have finished 2nd, 6th and 2nd in the last three years, achieving two historic promotions in the process. Winning has become a habit. In terms of their style of play, Town are extremely fit and they play at a high tempo both in and out of possession.
"They try to press the life out of teams when they don’t have the ball, while passing and moving slickly when they do have it. Crucially, they also have sufficient physicality and knowhow to be able to mix it up and go a bit more direct when they need to."
- Who would be the one to watch for Harrogate?
"Captain Josh Falkingham usually sets the standards, dictates the play and drives this team on from the centre of midfield, but the man who is really in form at the moment is Jack Muldoon. The versatile 31-year-old forward has six goals in six League Two starts and looks to be in the form of his life currently."
- Finally, what’s your score prediction for the game?
"It’s hard to call given that I haven’t seen anything of Stevenage, but I fancy Harrogate to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointment at Colchester. If they reach the levels they have done in recent weeks then I expect them to come out on top. It all depends on whether they can finish off their chances, if they do, then I’ll go for a 2-0 home win."