Harrogate Railway 0-2 Darlington 1883: Steeled Railway present firm test to Quakers

Lewis Nightingale, another former Railway player, scored the opener with a deflected shot (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
Lewis Nightingale, another former Railway player, scored the opener with a deflected shot (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

A battle hardened Harrogate Railway kicked off preparations for the new campaign with a steely display against higher league Darlington 1883 on Tuesday evening.

Lee Ashforth welcomed three new signings into his relegated squad while offering a chance to a number of triallists especially in the second period.

In fact, it was the away side that was perhaps the more recognisable with six former Railway players lining up at Station View.

The match was arranged as part of Nathan Cartman’s transfer to Darlington in 2014 and he lined up in an attacking threat alongside Liam Hardy and Lewis Nightingale.

Goalkeeper Chris Elliot was another ex-Railwayman whilst subs Matty Lovegreen and Amar Purewal both spent time in Harrogate last season.

Despite three divisions now separating the teams, it was Railway that almost took a shock lead inside the opening minutes when the lively Dan Barrett forced Elliot into a strong save at his near post.

Former Harrogate Railway goal hero Nathan Cartman, centre, returned to Station View (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Former Harrogate Railway goal hero Nathan Cartman, centre, returned to Station View (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Railway continued to give Ashforth encouragement and former goal hero Cartman was kept quiet throughout a largely dull opening half.

However, Nightingale, a summer signing for the National League North visitors, made the breakthrough on the stroke of half time when his cross deflected over new Railway stopper Jake Lofthouse.

Lofthouse otherwise had little to do in an even first half whilst Railway front man Dan Barrett had another close effort at the other end.

One saving grace for Railway came when Alex Low produced a well-timed tackle to prevent Nightingale a clean run on goal.

Cartman curls a shot goalwards in the first half (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Cartman curls a shot goalwards in the first half (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Three divisions now separate the two sides following respective relegations and promotions last season and the quality in possession swung towards the Northern outfit after the break.

New Railway captain Danny Stimpson produced a fine block on the line to deny the Quakers scoring a second but from the ensuing corner, Terry Galbraith found himself unmarked at the back post to double the lead.

That signalled the end of the scoring but Ashforth will have been encouraged by the defensive improvement produced by his side after last season’s desperate year in Evo-Stik First Division North.

Manager comments, Lee Ashforth...

New signing Gregg Porter made his first appearance for Railway (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

New signing Gregg Porter made his first appearance for Railway (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

“It was really interesting and it’s fantastic that Martin brings his players down here.

“The lads put in a really good shift to say that we have only had two training sessions and then they have been thrown straight into a game.

“Every manager will tell you it’s not about the result but the performance and our performance was really good tonight.

“We set up to get everybody behind the ball and be hard to break down. We have learned a lot from last season where we were a bit gung ho in certain games where we shouldn’t have been.

“We wanted to see if we can defend because there are going to be times this season where we will need to shut up shop and get everybody behind the ball.

“We have got five other friendlies now where we will try different things and play more attacking.”

Goalkeeper Jake Lofthouse is another new face at Harrogate Railway (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Goalkeeper Jake Lofthouse is another new face at Harrogate Railway (Photo: Caught Light Photography)