Harrogate boss Simon Weaver praised inspired goalkeeper James Belshaw for bailing out his below-par side as the stopper’s heroics secured a 0-0 draw at struggling Walsall.
Former Walsall trainee Belshaw saved Emmanuel Osadebe’s first-half penalty after Warren Burrell’s trip on Tyreik Wright and also made superb stops to thwart Josh Gordon, Caolan Lavery and Wright.
The draw halted a run of three successive defeats for mid-table Harrogate but extended Walsall’s winless streak to 13 games and they are just seven points above the relegation zone in 20th.
“James has been phenomenal this afternoon, it was probably his best showing this season. He’s been terrific,” said Weaver.
“He should be feeling very proud of himself and he started his career here as well so he had the bit between his teeth, it was a tremendous performance.
“We’ve had plenty of games like Walsall have today where we couldn’t hit a barn door or we’ve found a very good keeper keeping us out. It’s nice to get away with one for once.
“We were miles off it in the first half. All around the park we looked like a team that had taken a hit to their confidence.
“You are always concerned after three defeats because you feel like there’s a real dip going to happen because of confidence levels individually.
“We hung on in there, we were fortunate in some ways but I thought in the second half there were a few green shoots of recovery.”
When Belshaw did err, rushing out of his area to head straight to Gordon, covering defender Dan Jones blocked the striker’s goalbound effort.
Harrogate did improve in the second half and George Thomson twice almost pinched victory late on but his free-kick was tipped over by Liam Roberts and a 20-yard shot went just wide.
Walsall caretaker boss Brian Dutton, winless in his 12 games since taking charge, felt his side should have taken three points.
He said: “I’m gutted for the lads because they deserved to win today.
“We created the opportunities to win the game – it’s a real step in the right direction in terms of performance.
“We’ve ran into one today with their keeper, that’s how it is sometimes and we’re not going to get too down about it.
“We seem to have remedied a leaky defence, that’s another clean sheet today, but in terms of how worrying it is at the other end of the pitch, well, I believe in these lads, I’ve got full confidence in them.
“I think it’s a psychological one with some of the boys and as soon as we get that win, I’m sure the goals will flow.
“There seems to be a psychological problem with scoring goals – it’s not that these guys have got terrible technique or (lack) the ability to score goals, they certainly have that.”
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