Railway miss chance to escape drop zone after Hall Road loss

Fraser Lancaster's second-half strike looked to have earned Harrogate Railway a point from their home clash with Hall Road Rangers. Picture: Caught Light Photography

Harrogate Railway came within 60 seconds of escaping the NCEL Premier Division relegation zone, only to concede late on in Saturday’s home defeat to Hall Road Rangers.

After three consecutive victories, a point would have taken Marlon Adams’ team up one place to 19th in the table and above Barton Town, but Connor Harman’s injury-time goal earned visiting Rangers a 2-1 success at Station View.

Both sides created plenty of chances in front of goal during the 90 minutes, but in truth, Railway struggled to get out of their own half in the closing stages and were hanging on somewhat before Harman struck.

The game’s first opportunity of note arrived in the 10th minute when Railway winger Sheiden Rodgers cut in from the right, danced past a couple of defenders and forced visiting goalkeeper James Hitchcock into to tip around his post.

Hall Road then countered and Chris Spinks rattled the home crossbar before Hitchcock was forced into a stunning stop, throwing himself high to his left to prevent centre-half Sam Belcher heading Luke Stewart’s cross into his own net.

The game continued to ebb and flow, but the visitors should have gone ahead when some indecisive defending led to a clear sight of goal for Spinks just a couple of yards out, however Chris Senior stuck out a leg to brilliantly thwart him.

With 44 minutes on the clock, Stewart was played in on goal but lost his footing as he tried to take the ball around Hitchcock, then Adam Carter’s follow up effort was blocked.

Then, just seconds before half-time, Railway skipper Lincoln Adams mis-kicked deep in his own half and this allowed Spinks to scamper through on goal, round the onrushing Senior and slot home.

Gareth Owen could have doubled the away lead five minutes after the resumption but shot into the side netting when well placed, while at the other end Carter got himself in between two defenders, only to lift a strike over the bar from 20 yards out.

A switch from left to right then found Rodgers unmarked on the edge of the box, however his powerful hit was parried by Hitchcock, who then thwarted substitute Fraser Lancaster as he looked to pounce on the rebound.

Lancaster’s introduction from the bench, coupled with the arrival of young winger Nathan Merchant, certainly saw the hosts offer more as an attacking force and the two combined in the 72nd minute to level the scores.

Merchant picked up possession down the right and demonstrated some tidy footwork and a cool head as he threaded a perfect through-ball for Lancaster to calmly roll past the advancing Hitchcock on the edge of the area.

With Merchant continuing to impress, Railway set about trying to get their noses in front, but they began to run out of steam in the final 10 minutes.

The visitors began to turn the screw and a rash challenge inside the box gifted them an 84th-minute penalty, but Senior looked to have saved the day when he dived to his left to block Jack Griffin’s scuffed spot-kick.

Hall Road continued to press, however, and with Adams’ troops dropping deeper and deeper, an injury-time cross from the left picked out Harman and he drilled a low strike across goal and into the bottom corner of the net.

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