Harrogate Town opinion: Tranmere Rovers game a chance to take stock and appreciate what we've got
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.
Not being able to travel down to deepest Essex last Saturday, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the visit of Tranmere Rovers for several days now.
Harrogate Town finding themselves second in the league and our visitors from Birkenhead fourth, a point behind, sets this one up rather nicely. Whilst finding myself agreeing with Simon Weaver’s assertion that this will be our toughest test so far, I’ve firmly determined to enjoy the moment and take stock of where we are at this current point in the season.
So here I am, standing in the Kop 15 minutes before kick-off, watching the stands gradually fill up, a spectacular moon partially obscured by swirling dark clouds, the red lights of the huge crane over at St. Winifreds twinkling in the night sky, and I’m just soaking up the atmosphere.
At this point in time, especially after the last Covid-ridden year-and-a-half we’ve just experienced, and continue to experience, I still wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.
As we’ve found on our travels this season, most clubs in this league have grounds that are too big for their current status.
If a trip to watch Town at Port Vale or Leyton Orient or Oldham is a massive deal on paper, even though we arrive as equals on the pitch, in reality we fans often find ourselves in stadia surrounded by banks of empty plastic seats and little in the way of a big match ambience, even with a few thousand in the ground.
So let’s enjoy being able to watch football at little old Wetherby Road, where the terraces babble with 2,500 excited souls and there’s a proper good, old-fashioned atmosphere.
Times won’t always be this good, of course, yet even if crowds do swell further, I was pleased to learn that Town have no plans to relocate to an out-of-town purpose-built stadium anytime soon, choosing to seek to accommodate 6,000 at Wetherby Road instead, if needs be.
I’ve seen what York City have done, and it depresses me no end that they couldn’t stay at their spiritual home in Bootham Crescent on the edge of the city. Let’s be grateful for what we have here at home.
Now where was I? Oh yes, Tranmere at home on a Tuesday night ...
It’s a great match, not a classic by any means but always absorbing, end-to-end, and one of those games that can go either way.
The first half is a tale of two penalties: the first one right in front of us being very dubious, and you get the impression that the referee’s seeking to iron out his possible error when he awards Harrogate a spot-kick later in the half for a foul on Will Smith.
Either side of these, Mark Oxley prevents the net from bulging on three separate occasions and the busy Smith hits the crossbar and sees another shot saved on the line.
The second period continues in a similar vein, with chances at both ends, and one further goal each.
What’s more, it’s played in a good spirit, the players of both sides sharing light-hearted moments amongst themselves during pauses in the action.
It almost looks as if they’re enjoying the atmosphere and the game as much as I am.
Two-all’s fair and we retain a deserved second spot, in a compressed top 10, due to a plethora of draws elsewhere.
Seated, as I am the following morning, on an upturned tree trunk with a view overseeing the Showground to the abandoned railway viaduct beyond, I find myself in the perfect place to reflect on where we are. That’s until a succession of regular dog-walkers stop to pass the time of day, and I find myself retreating homewards for the sanctuary of my home office.
So it is at the ground the night before, as the players and the manager walk over to the Kop to give and receive the usual, and much appreciated, mutual applause.
I’m entirely happy with the point and enjoying the moment having watched Town go toe-to-toe with a very decent Tranmere outfit, when an agitated, furious voice booms from somewhere behind me: “USE YOUR SUBSTITUTES, WEAVER! USE YOUR SUBSTITUTES!”
If the manager can hear it, he doesn’t show it as he applauds us, but my inner peace is partially punctured. I guess not everyone feels the love.