From the Terraces: Saddened at the prospect of missing another Harrogate Town trip to Wembley
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.
You’ll have to forgive me for sounding slightly downbeat in a week in which my team largely outplayed Carlisle United on their own patch, ahead of the long-delayed appearance in the FA Trophy final on Bank Holiday Monday, but this week has been a particularly hard one to swallow.
The source of my frustration and sadness isn’t related to events on the pitch, even though the Cumbrians snatched a barely-deserved point as Harrogate Town couldn’t put them fatally to the sword whilst dominant in the first half.
No, I’m still proud of the way Town moved the ball around when in possession, and of how hard they worked when not. Forcing the home side into three changes at half-time spoke volumes, and another unjustly disallowed John Stead goal just seemed to make the players more determined, as they took the lead barely three minutes later.
Town seem to have rediscovered some of the form they displayed in the victorious play-off matches last year and in the early stages of this season, and it comes at just the right time for the Wembley appearance.
Indeed, my sadness and frustration is fairly and squarely aimed at the injustice of Town fans, together with Concord Rangers, Hebburn and Consett fans, not being allowed to travel down to London to watch our team in what amounts to one of the biggest days in all of our clubs’ history.
I say ‘injustice’ because, if it was solely a case of the country being in the middle of a rising pandemic as in September last year, it would be fair enough.
Yet, although we’re still in the middle of that pandemic, and far from out of the woods, there is currently a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown being negotiated via test events. And we were initially promised test event status, before Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur came along.
So it was that we had to watch two clubs, who only last week were attempting to bring the entire English football structure into disrepute, being rewarded with a cup final at Wembley in front of their own fans.
I wouldn’t mind, but the Carabao Cup is often treated as a second-rate competition by these clubs, it’s not as if the fans of these teams won’t get another chance to go to Wembley and, let’s be honest, City winning it four times on the trot is just getting boring now.
The attendance at Wembley was a healthy 8,000; 4,000 of those were local residents and NHS workers and 2,000 travelled from each club.
Manchester City fans, for example, had to provide a negative test result and were made to travel on official club transport, so that things could be controlled and monitored.
Town supporters could have done that, no problems, and the FA could have promoted lower and non-league football with the locals.
But no, they took the easy route and it was back to business as usual for the disgraced clubs concerned.
It’s certainly a strange time to be alive. In previous years, the town may have been awash with ‘Town at Wembley’ window displays and a rising state of excitement, but the build-up is somewhat more understated this year due of course, to the on-going pandemic, ban on fans and the near 12 months’ delay to the original match.
My own personal cup final in this superb FA Trophy run will forever remain the crazy 3-2 victory at AFC Fylde in the quarter-finals, barely a week before football shut down in the face of the coronavirus onslaught.
We had it all, end-to-end football, adverse weather conditions, a freakish injury-time winner and ... FANS.
Having said all that, I’m sure that as this weekend approaches, I’ll be just as excited as I was when watching last season’s National League play-off final.
We must not forget that this is one of the most important matches for Town in the history of the club, something which only four years ago would have been seen as an unbelievable achievement, and it’s just the circumstances that are unfortunate.
Winning the FA Trophy, no matter the circumstances, will forever be something the club can hold up as an achievement.
And, if the players approach the FA Trophy final like they did the play-off final, we can’t ask for any more come Bank Holiday Monday.