Easter Monday football: Spartans draw puts Town back in trouble

Andrew Burns of Harrogate Town and Dan Parkinson of Vauxhall Motors duel for the ball.

Andrew Burns of Harrogate Town and Dan Parkinson of Vauxhall Motors duel for the ball.

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HARROGATE Town slid back into trouble on Easter Monday, only picking up a point from a 0-0 draw at home to already relegated Blyth Spartans.

Victories for Workington, Histon and Vauxhall Motors meant Town are bang in trouble again, down to 19th in Blue Square North, one place and two points above the relegation zone.

Histon occupy the third relegation spot, but hold a game in hand.

Up the A1, HARROGATE RAILWAY lost 4-1 away at Durham City in the Evo-Stik First Division North.

Jon Maloney scored their only goal from the penalty spot in the first half.

Railway are still two points and one place above the relegation zone.

Back in Harrogate, the first slice of Town’s Easter weekend programme had started so promisingly.

They grabbed a 2-0 win away at top ten side Boston United on Saturday to move another step away from danger.

Alan White and Adam Nowakowski were both on target for the Wetherby Roaders at Boston, and Simon Weaver kept faith with that team, making no changes to the starting line-up.

Striker Paul Beesley, who impressed at Droylsden and scored a hat-trick for Harrogate Railway last weekend, remained up front.

Meantime Will Turl has played his final game for Town, having moved down south.

There was a minute’s silence for life member, former trainer and physio John Townrow.

Spartans arrived with their fate already sealed; they will be playing Evo-Stik League football next season along with relegated Eastwood Town.

But they still had a point to prove, their bullish travelling support displaying banners of 300’s Hollywood Spartans, suggesting they weren’t here simply to lie down.

Although Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender weren’t available for Monday’s team, Blyth did bring former Town striker Graeme Armstrong and winger Wayne Phillips back to the CNG.

Given the history between the teams, and various players having served at both clubs, the early exchanges were unsuprisingly physical; Adam Nowakowski clattering Phillips on the ankle, and Armstrong barging into Mark Cook.

But Town were better organised, Lee Elam setting up Alex Meechan for a long-range effort and Luke Dean testing David Knight’s nerve with an early shot.

A clever move started out on the wing by Nowakowski on the wing, went through Meechan before Beesley teed up Paul Bolland for a rifled shot which crept wide of the far post.

Approaching the 15 minute mark, Spartans’ Robert Dale forced Cook to tip over the post from a Joe Kendrick corner, and then continued to apply pressure with a rash of the set pieces.

Town had to wait until the 32nd minute for the next genuine chance, when Bolland’s perfectly-weighted cross to Meechan drew a great save out of Knight.

Elam then forced Knight to dive to his left to keep out another ball lashed in from just outside the 18-yard box.

As half-time approached, the game started to take on a distinct end-of-season feel.

Craig Radcliffe won a free kick 30 yards out, but Nowakowski lacked the finesse to do much with it, and it seemed both sides were killing time until the whistle.

Just five minutes into the second half, Weaver replaced Beesley with Chib Chilaka.

The Town faithful were delighted to see the popular marksman step on to the field, but at that moment it was Spartans turning up the heat.

Armstrong went close with a shot, as did midfielder Glen Taylor and Phillips, who forced Cook to dive to the ground to quell one attempt.

Town were attempting to work the ball down the far wing, but Meechan and Dean were unable to penetrate an armour-tight defence.

Elam broke down the length of the field for a shot deflected out, Radcliffe forcing a corner with the follow-up.

Unfortunately, poor touch from Nowakowski and then Radcliffe meant it came to nothing.

Weaver swapped Elam and Dean for Robbie Youhill and Paul Brayson, but Spartans were threatening again when Robert Dale headed over the bar from close range.

A a quick look at the latest Blue Square North scores made worrying reading.

Vauxhall Motors were winning 1-0 at home to Stalybride, and Histon 1-0 up at Gloucester.

Town needed a goal.

Three pairs of fresh legs were starting to have an effect, Brayson winning a corner. Sadly, Nowakowski nodded Radcliffe’s ball in out for a goal kick.

Youhill received the ball 35 yards out from Bolland and delivered a super strike, which drifted wide of Knight’s goal.

Fortunately for Town so did another powerful shot from Dale, which left Cook a spectator as it thumped the hoardings.

Another storming run down the wing from Youhill handed Chilaka a superb chance to put Town a goal up.

Youhill showed supreme pace to beat his marker and cross in, but Chilaka booted the opportunity straight into Knight’s hands.

A good one-two between Radcliffe and Brayson won another corner, Chilaka’s efforts to force it in reaping no reward.

Youhill again surged down the wing to provide another peach of a cross, but Knight knocked out Brayson’s shot.

Under a huge amount of pressure, the Spartans defence really was living up to its ancient Greek legend.

But they blew a superb chance to score when Armstrong blasted over the bar from five yards out.

After that, opportunities dwindled and full time arrived with no goals at the CNG.

Goals elsewhere for Vauxhall Motors and Workington mean Town are now back in danger and under serious pressure to save their season with three games left.

They are poised one place and two points above Histon, who occupy the third remaining relegation spot.

Histon however, hold a game in hand.

Blue Square North

Harrogate Town 0

Blyth Spartans 0

Harrogate Town: Cook, Burns, Radcliffe, Bolland, Bloomer, White, Nowakowski, Dean (Brayson 63), Meechan, Beesley (Chilaka 49), Elam (Youhill 63); Platt, Palmer

Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Kendrick, Hodgson, Buchanan, Jones, Taylor (Mason 85), Ferrell (Hooks 74), Armstrong, Dale, Phillips; Slaughter, Birdsall, Utterson.

MoM: Andrew Burns

Attn: 425

Blue Square North

Hyde 39 14 5 1 51 16 11 3 5 33 18 50 83

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2 Guiseley 39 15 3 2 52 23 9 6 4 29 23 35 81

3 Nuneaton 39 13 3 4 35 19 8 7 4 35 20 31 73

4 FC Halifax 39 9 5 6 39 32 10 5 4 36 24 19 67

5 Gainsborough 39 14 1 5 36 21 7 3 9 31 35 11 67

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6 Stalybridge 39 12 2 5 44 28 6 9 5 33 30 19 65

7 Worcester 39 10 6 3 30 19 8 3 9 30 36 5 63

8 Altrincham 39 10 5 4 46 27 6 4 10 35 39 15 57

9 Droylsden 38 9 6 4 40 31 6 4 9 31 44 -4 55

10 Boston Utd 39 6 7 6 24 24 9 1 10 31 34 -3 53

11 Corby 39 6 0 13 30 35 8 7 5 31 26 0 49

12 Gloucester 39 8 3 9 24 25 6 4 9 24 28 -5 49

13 Bishop’s Stortford 39 6 4 9 29 30 8 3 9 34 45 -12 49

14 Colwyn Bay 39 8 2 9 25 35 6 4 10 23 30 -17 48

15 Workington 39 8 5 7 31 28 5 3 11 21 30 -6 47

16 Solihull Moors 39 9 3 7 28 23 4 5 11 14 28 -9 47

17 Hinckley Utd 39 5 5 10 35 40 8 3 8 36 42 -11 47

18 Vauxhall Motors 39 7 4 9 25 32 6 4 9 34 38 -11 47

19 Harrogate Town 39 7 6 7 24 27 6 2 11 27 41 -17 47

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20 Histon 38 4 7 7 32 35 7 5 8 26 31 -8 45

21 Blyth Spartans 39 5 5 9 28 35 1 8 11 18 42 -31 31

22 Eastwood Town 39 1 7 12 21 47 3 1 15 15 45 -56 20