Sunday, 6 November 2011

Harrogate Town on a Slippery Slope

A comfy seat in the back row of the stand for a first-time hopper

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 5 November 2011 at the CNG Stadium, Wetherby Road, Harrogate
Harrogate Town 0 Nuneaton Town 2
Conference North (step 2)
I am here because of a Facebook post in which I invited friends to choose my destination, randomishly.  Yorkshire stalwarts Julie & Alan were the first to respond, and although Ossett Town would have been closer, they decided that the civilised surroundings of Harrogate would be the better bet.  Alan is a rugby man (an ex-player to be more accurate) but he has lots of programmes (albeit still in a box) and knows his stuff.  Julie is now a groundhopper – everyone has to start somewhere.  I predict that she will show up at Ossett eventually :)
This match in one sentence
Nuneaton Town  scored a stoppage-time goal in each half from a hatful of chances for a good on-the-road victory.
So what?
Harrogate Town and Nuneaton sit fourteenth and seventh in the table respectively.  On the hopping front, this leaves me three to go to complete all of step 2 – Colwyn Bay & Workington in the North and Truro City in the South.
Something random
The latest non-league sunset of the season.

The drama unfolds
This was a tricky surface after recent rain and credit to both teams that they tried to play a passing game and there were few dubious challenges.

Nuneaton looked somewhat more dangerous in the final third, but Harrogate were still in the game as half-time approached.  Here’s a scene-setter clip followed by a bit of early goalmouth action.  Both teams were forced into an early substitution, and Harrogate’s loss of #5 Richard Pell proved the more significant.

I settled in the main stand with my native guides for the rest of the half.  With 40 minutes on the clock, Nuneaton had had three chances in fairly quick succession.  Graham Ward had rattled the post with a shot.  Harrogate’s debutant keeper Ben Wilson turned a Danny Glover shot wide and then watched a header deflected narrowly over.  A miscued Glover shot spun to a colleague who fired wide and then the man himself shot tamely into Wilson’s midriff at short range. It began to look as though the Harrogate goal had a charmed life, especially after this run by Simon Forsdick.

Harrogate themselves wasted a good chance on the break to get into the Nuneaton box before Nuneaton took the lead in first-half stoppage time.  It seemed an age before the ball ricocheted to Guy Hadland who shot low into the corner.  0-1 at half-time

The hinge point of the game came about ten minutes after the break.  Harrogate striker Paul Brayson hit the post and that was as close as they came.  The second half settled into the same pattern as the first.  Harrogate were never out of contention but seemed to lack the cutting edge, and a second Nuneaton goal looked just as likely.  It would have come from Adam Walker if Justin Marden had been less selfish when shooting, as a pass would have been the better option.

Here’s a second-half clip.

After 88 minutes the peril of the one-goal lead was nearly proven but Brayson’s shot was superbly blocked, and then the same player had a chance from this direct freekick.

As I put the camera away in my pocket – this was well into stoppage time – debutant Nuneaton sub Wes York played Glover through into acres of space and he finished calmly.  On the basis of possession and territory, harsh, but on the basis of clear chances created, absolutely fair enough.  Final score 0-2
Nuneaton’s marauding fullbacks Simon Forsdick and (apart from one sliced clearance!) Graham Ward who managed to combine attack and defence duties to good effect.
A snippet from the programme
Top quality name-dropping from chairman Bill Fotherby:

“My old friend Sir Alex Ferguson was not a happy man after City gave his United side a beating but what is important is how a team bounces back.  United beat Everton in their following game and the ethos is the same for us.  We have been knocked down but we will get back up and prove ourselves.”

Well, Bill, the next chance is at Gloucester City next week.  Harrogate Town have now lost four in a row in the league.
What I learned today
That there is a bewildering network of back roads from Dewsbury to Harrogate known only to Alan and perhaps a few other Yorkshire cognoscenti.  I assume these have developed from the secret marks and signs left by prehistoric tykes in the lumps of limestone.

Also, this ground has one of the more pronounced slopes at this level (do you see what I did there?), and gradually over time players are affected by gravity and settle in the lowest corner.

What Next?
Another FB friend and occasional twitterer, Rob S (you know who you are!) will have the chance to choose for me.

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