Town the early pacesetters
Two from two for new Harpenden boss
NEW Harpenden Town boss Ryan Thompson has made a blistering start to life at Rothamsted Park with his new charges sitting proudly atop the Division One table with a 100 per cent record.
Following last week’s 4-2 Herts Charity Shield defeat to Premier Division side Tring Athletic, a game which Town lead 2-0, Thompson’s side have put together back-to-back victories against AFC Dunstable and New Bradwell St Peter which has seen them become the division’s early season pacesetters.
Aaron Clarke, a summer signing from Colney Heath, got Harpenden off to a flyer against AFC Dunstable on Saturday scoring two goals inside 20 minutes as Harpenden raced into a 3-0 lead with Richard Taaffe also on target.
Despite Dan Lidden pulling a goal back, Jimmy Warner’s second half goal completed the rout.
Then on Tuesday night, Town overcame two red cards to record a 3-2 victory over New Bradwell St Peter.
Warner got Town on their way 17 minutes in with a header and Jordaine Blake doubled the advantage with a left foot shot. It wasn’t a game without controversy though with Andy Saul shown a yellow card despite being on the wrong end of a headbutt and manager Thompson was dismissed from the touchline for questioning the official’s decision. It was a costly yellow card for Saul who was given his marching orders when he picked up a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge just after the break. New Bradwell pulled a goal back before the interval through Ben Hill to halve Town’s advantage. With his side a man down, Thompson, in mobile communication with his assistant Chris Day on the touchline, re-jigged the side and set it up for the counter attack. It was a move that worked as Clarke pounced on a weak header and rolled the ball home to restore Town’s two goal lead on 71 minutes.
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Town where then reduced to nine men but despite New Bradwell grabbing another goal in the 95th minute, Thompson’s side held on.
“I’m really, really pleased,” Thompson told the Herts Advertiser. “We’ve got lots of lads from different areas, some who were with Harpenden, some who have come from Park Street with me and four or five we’ve got in from other clubs. It’s going to take time to gel but we’re scoring lots of early goals which is helping.”
Despite racing into an early 3-0 lead over Dunstable at the weekend, Thompson felt his side were poor in the first half.
“We went 3-0 up then conceded a sloppy goal,” he said. “We really didn’t play well in the first half but it was much better in the second half. We closed the game out which is what we didn’t do against Tring, we learnt a lot from that Tring game.”
The Town boss was far from happy with the officials’ display during Tuesday night’s victory but feels the injustices handed out to his side has bought them closer together.
“Their striker has headbutted Andy Saul and everyone’s seen it but the referee, he’s pulled them over and decided to book the pair. I’ve come out of my technical area to complain, but I haven’t sworn, and he’s shown me the red card. Then in the second half Saul’s mistimed a tackle and got a second yellow which is hard to take because of the first one.
“We dug in though and some of the defending was amazing, with people putting their bodies on the line and Matt Lord was blinding in goal.
“If they’ve got the right attitude and are willing to die for each other then you’re halfway there.”
Despite sitting at the top, Thompson acknowledged that there is a long way to go and a lot of games coming thick and fast for his squad.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up,” added Thompson. “The squad is thin on the ground at the moment with holidays and long term injuries. Some of the lads that have come with me like Ricky Tahon are still out and Paddy Knock has been out for a long time. We’ve not set any targets, we’re just going to take it a game at a time.”
Thompson admitted he’s got a real buzz from the new season, though not everyone will be happy.
“I’ve got the fire back in my belly, but I’m not sure my missus is too happy because all I do is talk football and go and watch it,” he joked.
“No disrespect but we came so far at Park Street and it went a little stale, now the buzz is back.”