From the Terraces: Harrogate Town finally break AFC Fylde curse
If you’d asked me to pick a tie I didn’t want for the quarter final of the FA Trophy, it would most certainly have been AFC Fylde away.
Harrogate Town hadn’t beaten them in 11 previous attempts, a run going back to a time before my daughter and I started supporting the club.
They’ve knocked us out of the play-offs twice and, even when on the ropes earlier in the season, they conspired to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat thanks to a jobsworth of a linesman spotting the flimsiest of handballs.
Nonetheless, if we’re going to get to Wembley, today’s the day we have to lay that Fylde curse to rest.
My daughter, Molly, and I set off from Wetherby Road on the, shall we say, more sedate of the two supporters’ coaches.
You know it’s going to be a quiet journey when you get on and find that the back seats aren’t taken. Not that we took them either, all that bouncing around at the back makes me feel sick.
It’s not the weather for a football match on the beach, as witnessed before the play-off match last summer. Especially with Storm Jorge on the way.
So this time, Town fans have received an invite to the Fylde local, the Stanley Arms, a homely pub in the shade of the Fox’s biscuit factory in Wesham.
One pint, a half of lemonade, a basket of chips and three Leeds goals on the telly later, we set off to the ground, having graduated to the noisier coach of the two for the short journey.
Although the sun’s shining when we arrive, there’s a vicious wind blowing towards the far goal.
Town kick off in that direction, but fail to puncture the defence of a home team struggling to get out of their own half against the conditions.
Spoilt by the weather, the underwhelming nature of the first half gives no hint of the drama to come.
When we go one down against the wind within eight minutes of the restart, I suffer that familiar sinking feeling that goes with watching us play Fylde.
But this Town team is currently made of sterner stuff and manage to battle their way up the pitch and start to have a real go at their hosts.
We roar them on from the shelter of the away end and, cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Ex-Fylde player Jack Muldoon enters the fray and, within five minutes, dances his way past two defenders in the area to set up an on-rushing Lloyd Kerry for the equaliser.
Barely a minute later, Kerry drives into the heart of the home defence and returns the favour for Muldoon, who makes it 2-1.
The Town end goes crazy, and even a yellow card for jumping into the crowd can’t wipe the smile off our goal-scorer’s face.
Not for nothing, though, do we refer to the Fylde curse.
Just as we think we might come away with a famous win, Storm Jorge, in all its force, rolls into town.
Horizontal sheets of wind and rain flatten the corner flags and batter Town back into their own area. I’ve never seen anything like it at a football match before.
The away goal proceeds to lead a charmed life as both the Coasters and Storm Jorge attack.
Yet, following a rousing seven minute rendition of ‘Town All Over’ from the travelling supporters, it looks like we might have literally weathered the storm.
Molly moves down to the front, with one minute to go, to clap the jubilant players on the final whistle. Me? I know better and stay firmly put, biting my nails.
“I can’t believe we’re going to finally beat the Fylde curse,” says my daughter to the fan next to her.
The words have barely left her mouth, when home full-back Luke Burke despairingly decides to have a pot shot from 30 yards.
His effort catches the storm and flies past Joe Cracknell like a laser-guided missile. Extra-time it is then.
The teams turn round again and, for the first time in the match, Town make the elements count, albeit in the most bizarre of fashions.
The Fylde keeper kicks the ball out of his hands, it reaches high above the half way line before the wind boomerangs it back in mid-air towards Muldoon, facing away from goal, 30 yards out.
Without a second thought, he turns and hits a dipping volley over the bemused Coasters custodian.
This time, Town hold out against Storm Jorge by the skin of their teeth, with free- kicks from the half way line landing on the top of the net and our hosts lashing over from four yards.
Thank goodness there’s no Danny Rowe in the home team to take advantage any more.
Cue wild celebrations in the away end at the final whistle.
The curse has finally been vanquished. The players head over joyously but briefly, before heading for the sanctuary of the tunnel to thaw out, and who can blame them.
Molly and I, fully wrapped up against the wind and rain, can barely face to walk five minutes home on disembarking from the coach, let alone run around in flimsy shirt and shorts kicking a football for over two hours.