Harrogate Railway plan to blood emerging talent during final weeks of 2023/24 campaign

Harrogate Railway plan to use their 10 remaining NCEL Division One fixtures as an opportunity to blood some emerging talent, with the aim of trying to build for the future.
Harrogate Railway manager Rob Youhill. Picture: Gerard BinksHarrogate Railway manager Rob Youhill. Picture: Gerard Binks
Harrogate Railway manager Rob Youhill. Picture: Gerard Binks

The Starbeck outfit have enjoyed a fairly successful season under Rob Youhill and Fraser Lancaster, Saturday’s 5-3 home win over Swallownest lifting them into the top half of the table.

With the emphasis very much on young, homegrown players, the duo have put together and nurtured a new-look team after almost the entirety of last term’s first-team squad followed previous boss Mick O’Connell out of Station View when he left for Tadcaster Albion in the summer.

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They got off to a flying start to the 2023/24 campaign and flirted with the play-offs for a number of months, before their form tailed off somewhat over winter.

They have however won three of their last four league matches and now sit in 11th place, 23 points off the play-offs, and 28 clear of the drop zone.

So, with a mid-table finish looking a near-certainty, Youhill insists that he and Lancaster are happy to use the final weeks of the season to give first-team exposure to some of the players who have played the majority of their football in the West Yorkshire League for the club’s reserve side.

"Success for us this season with a new team and in our first year managing at this level wasn’t ever going to be winning the league or even making the play-offs,” Youhill said.

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"It was just about being a better team by the end of the season than when we started, and I think we can already say that we have achieved that because of the progress we have made.

"It’s a shame that the play-offs look like they are out of reach when we still have quite a lot of games left to play. It would have been nice to have still been in contention, however there is a positive to not being in the mix for promotion or fighting relegation.

"We will have the chance to give opportunities to some of the lads from the reserves and have a look at them at NCEL level, to see how they get on.

"It’s going to be really useful for us to be able to give them that exposure and it helps us plan for the future, while the other benefit is that it will strengthen the reserve team at the same time. If we were fighting for the play-offs or in a relegation scrap, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do something like this.”

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Railway found themselves 2-0 down to lowly Swallownest after 22 minutes, however three goals in quick succession from Murray Gibb, Jacob Robertson and Alex Clark saw them turn the game on its head.

The visitors levelled matters on the stroke of half-time, but Mike Morris and Lucas Umpleby struck after the break to decide the contest.

Centre-half Gibb was making his first-team debut for the club having stepped up from Railway’s second string, while the likes of leading marksman Luca Bolino, Sam Clothier, Joe Navier and Josh Lockwood dropped down to play for the reserves in a 2-1 away success over Robin Hood Athletic.

Last Tuesday, the Rail suffered a heavy 6-1 defeat at home to local rivals Knaresborough Town in the quarter-finals of the West Riding County Cup.

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Harry Bandeira netted the hosts’ consolation strike, with Dominic Creamer (2), James Beaston, Sam Cook, Ewan Gregson and Alex Ingham the men on target for Boro.

On Saturday, Town’s run of four consecutive NCEL Premier Division victories was ended by Thackley, who triumphed 2-0 at Manse Lane.

That result leaves Simon Parkes’ men ninth in the table with five league fixtures remaining.

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