Sport

Harwood are not Maine men

FOOTBALL: GREAT Harwood boss John Hughes is hoping their two successive NWCL Division Two defeats are the "kick up the backside" his side need as they strive to win a top four spot.
ACTION from Harwood's clash with Maine Road

GREAT Harwood boss John Hughes is hoping their two successive NWCL Division Two defeats are the "kick up the backside" his side need as they strive to win a top four spot.

After losing just one league clash all season, two defeats in the last two games has seen Harwood fall off the pace despite having a number of games in hand.

They lost to struggling Chadderton two weeks ago and last Saturday, they suffered a 3-1 loss to league leaders Maine Road. And they are desperate to get back on a winning trail at second placed Formby on Saturday (ko 3pm).

"We have got used to winning and now the lads are getting used to losing a bit," said Hughes, who received the Manager of the Month award for December prior to the game. They can hear the opposition in the dressing rooms hitting the walls and cheering because they have beaten us and they feel bitter. I want them to feel bitter then they know how it feels and in the next games make sure it doesn't happen again.

"I want to see the spirit and the character in the side. We are a good side who can beat anyone in this league. We haven't been helped by the weather which has stopped us training for three weeks over Christmas but it is the swimming baths and astroturf this week and hopefully we will get some of our fitness back."

Maine Road's Neil Chappell took his tally to 18 goals for the season with the first goal on 30 minutes from the penalty spot and one in the 90th. In between Simms added a second for the Manchester side on 37 minutes before tall Neil Zarac got Harwood back into it just after the break. The striker pounced after Paul Mashiter's initial effort had hit the post. Harwood went looking for the equaliser before Ryan Parr's wayward header allowed Chappell's late goal.

"I didn't feel the decisions went for us and two of the goals have come from our own mistakes. There are such inconsistencies in the refereeing as well. The penalty was given by the assistant ref but if he judged that our keeper Bobby Harris had brought their player down - why didn't he send him off?

"Then Mashy ran through one-on-one, their keeper brought him down, but the keeper wasn't booked and we got a free kick which came to nothing. It is hard to know what to say and is hard to deal with at times. But we deserved something out of the game."

One big worry for Hughes is that Mashiter - Player of the Month for December - may need an operation on his groin. With Matt Derbyshire joining Blackburn, Hughes has been short up front and the loss of Mashiter will be a big blow. He is seeing a specialist this week.

"I am trying to get a striker in this week. The injuries are hard work at the moment as James Dean is also injured. We need to get back to winning ways though," added Hughes.