Josh McPake’s arrival in Harrogate Town during the January transfer window was greeted with much fanfare.
The Sulfurites landed something of a coup, beating reported competition from a host of League Two rivals, including Salford City and Forest Green Rovers, to land the Glasgow Rangers winger on a loan deal until the end of the season. .
Manager Simon Weaver’s friendship with Gary McAllister, No. 2 Gers boss Steven Gerrard, helped tip the balance in favor of the North Yorkshire team and great things were predicted from the Scottish youth international.
A low-key debut followed in a narrow defeat at the top of the Cambridge United table, although 19-year-old McPake was thrown to the bottom in that game when he was given a starting spot with hardly a chance. train alongside your new teammates.
However, the first signs were promising. His second outing, against Salford City, saw him show the pace, power and quickness of his feet that have marked him as a player with a great future north of the border.
Twenty-five minutes after his third appearance with Harrogate, he took it a step further, dancing on the Tranmere Rovers box for an excellent solo effort. There were notable contributions during the victories over Newport and Crawley County, but many of the performances that followed lacked consistency.
McPake could beat defenders for fun, but most of the time, he held the ball too long, couldn’t get his head up, and ignored his teammates in better positions. On too many occasions, the final product was little or no.
However, none of this should come as a surprise. The only reason a club the size of Glasgow Rangers has loaned a player of McPake’s caliber to arguably the smallest club in the English Football League is to aid their development.
For most players, the transition from academy football to senior play is a difficult one. Only regular first team football allows young people to correct flaws in their games and gives them the opportunity to learn, prosper and grow.
The regular exit opportunities are clearly exactly what Weaver promised McAllister and Gerrard in January, and in fact, McPake has been included early on in 20 of the 22 games Harrogate has completed since his arrival.
Since Easter, the benefit of the exposure to League Two football given to the flying wideman has been more and more remarkable week after week.
Introduced as a substitute at halftime against Walsall on Good Friday, McPake has gained in confidence and effectiveness with each passing game.
And, their improvement has been tangible in the past seven days, as a late draw against Leyton Orient midweek was followed by a surprising winner against Bradford City on Saturday.
“It was a long time, I had some chances in the game, so luckily I saved that one at the end,” McPake said of the cult 89-minute punch that circled Richard O’Donnell from the edge of the Bantams’ penalty area.
“All my goals have come from that type of area, so when the ball came to me from the left wing, I had an idea of what I was going to try to do and I knew it was going to come in from the moment I did it. Beat him. It was good, sometimes I get a little frustrated with my completion, so I was very happy, I have been working hard to achieve it.
“I can always clean, I’m never going to be perfect, but I definitely feel like I’ve improved as I’ve played.
“Coming from the academy level, it is always difficult to take that step into first team football, but I have enjoyed every minute that I have been at Harrogate. I have played a lot of minutes and I am very happy with my progress in the last months ”.
The opportunity to strut on better playing surfaces at Walsall and Bolton, plus the growth of some additional turf in the sand pit at EnviroVent Stadium has certainly been a contributing factor to the growing influence of a player whose main strength it lies in his will and ability to take on opponents.
“I’m not to blame for the pitches, but it was difficult during the winter when pitches naturally fell off, but they have been much better and so I feel a little more confident on my feet,” he added.
“At the beginning of my loan here I was getting a little frustrated because things weren’t going as often as I would have liked, but now I’m starting to feel a little more secure with my completion and everything is starting to fall into place. now.
However, there is definitely more to come …
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This notice was published: 2021-04-19 06:00:43