2013/14: Skrill Conference North – Harrogate Town v Stockport County
Sometimes it’s just not your day. Last Saturday the intention was to go and make a first visit to the CNG Stadium to see Harrogate Town take on North Ferriby United. However, the ‘train gods’ intervened meaning that the necessary connection couldn’t be made to make kick-off and so a detour to Throstle Nest ensued for the Farsley AFC v Darlington 1883 fixture.
This Saturday the plan was to get to one of the numerous FA Cup Preliminary ties in the Yorkshire region, but at the last minute, on impulse the decision was to make another attempt to visit Harrogate Town for their fixture against Stockport County. All was going well as having made the appropriate connection, arrival into Harrogate was achieved eighty minutes before kick-off. Momentarily the thought of getting a taxi to the stadium was considered, but given that the walk was only about a mile and it was a warm day, then it was a journey by foot that was undertaken. Last week a study of Google Maps had been undertaken to see what the route was, however, having made a snap decision today to make the trip to Harrogate, no further look over the directions to the ground was made. The recollection from the scouting mission of the previous week was that the journey involved walking from Harrogate Station across The Stray to Wetherby Road culminating in total a mile and a quarter trek to the home of Town.
The finery that is grassed areas of Harrogate were soon reached and on stepping foot on the verdant expanses another companion was gained when an innocent looking Stockport fan decided that this errant scribe was a likely looking Saint Christopher. With a confident stride the predicted fifteen minute journey began. However the assured measure began to wane when some twenty minutes later the ground had not been reached and advice was sought from a local shop. The good news was that the owner had a local street map; the bad news was that he pointed out that the stadium was now two miles away. With directions now memorised it was going to be a mad dash to make it for kick-off as it was now ten past two. To his credit, the County fan just shrugged, smiled and put his best foot forward. What had been planned as a pleasant sunny stroll was now a heads-down sweaty route-march.
At five to three the teams emerged onto the pitch with loud applause from the crowd as the ground was finally reached. Given how close to kick-off it was and what looked to be a large crowd with a significant travelling support in the ground, it was no surprise that the programmes had sold out. The food kiosk was doing a roaring trade as supporters spilled out of the bar and the referee blew his whistle to start the game.
The home team were quickly on the offensive and created the first chance of the game with their first attack, when Ashley Worsfold fired over from twelve yards out after Stockport failed to clear. However, County responded and dominated the game over the next thirty minutes, winning a number of corners and creating some excellent chances. One such opportunity fell to Adriano Moke, but the Stockport number seven screwed his shot horribly wide. Another chance fell to County striker Phil Jeavons whose curling free-kick was well saved by Craig MacGillivray. However that was as good as it got for the visitors, as a three goal blitz in four minutes blew away Stockport. First on thirty seven minutes from a move started from the back, Adam Bolder had time and space to fire home past Ian Ormson. Two minutes later from a long ball out of defence, Chris Hall battled with two Stockport markers and the ball broke to Michael Woods who clipped it forward before expertly firing home a half-volley. Woods was again involved on forty one minutes when after a surging run into the box, his pass found Chris Hall who cleanly finished to put Town 3-0 up. This sparked fury amongst a number of County fans who made their feeling known to the Stockport manager Ian Bogie from behind his dugout.
At the half-time whistle many of the disgruntled visiting fans headed to the bar and it was noticeable that a number did not emerge when the second-half kicked off. The second period did not contain any of the drama of the first-half, with Harrogate best chances being a Chris Hall header and a Michael Woods effort that was cleared off the line. As the home team eased up, the final quarter belonged to Stockport and good chances were created for Howard and Verma. With four minutes remaining, the visitors got reward for their efforts when fullback Kyle Jacobs was twice involved, finally delivering a cross which Iain Howard collected and then swivelled on to fire home. It was just a mere consolation for the vast number of travelling fans who at the whistle once again vented their anger towards the County management team. For the Harrogate fans it was positive start to the season as they had just witnessed a third win from their opening five games.
Just as the second-half had been pretty quiet so was the journey back into Harrogate without incident. Sadly for Stockport the day did not get any better when Ian Bogie resigned a few hours after the final whistle. It must be a difficult time to be a Hatters fan, who will know that as recently as 2001/02 their club was playing just one league below the Premier League. On 27 August 2001, County travelled to Birmingham City and lost 2-1 in front of a crowd of 18,478. Just twelve years later 918 witnessed their latest defeat which leaves them second bottom of the Skrill Conference North. You think you’ve had a bad day? Try being a County fan right now.