How did Harrogate Town's brand-new grass pitch perform during Saturday's League Two win over Barrow AFC?

Harrogate Town played on their brand-new grass pitch for the first time on Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 19th October 2020, 11:09 am
Updated Monday, 19th October 2020, 11:12 am
Harrogate Town have laid a new natural turf pitch at their Wetherby Road home. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

Barrow were the visitors to the EnviroVent Stadium as Simon Weaver’s men recorded a 1-0 victory and made history in the process.

The fixture was the first Football League (EFL) contest ever to be held at Wetherby Road in the club’s 106-year existence.

When Town secured promotion to League Two by beating Notts County 3-1 at Wembley in the National League play-off final on August 2, they were left facing one huge issue.

Town players George Thomson, left, and Ryan Fallowfield check out the new grass prior to kick-off.

Them being permitted entry to the EFL depended on them having a grass pitch to play on, but 11 weeks ago that was quite simply not the case.

Thus, less than 48 hours after the first champagne cork had been popped in front of the famous arch, diggers moved and began the process of replacing Harrogate’s artificial 3G surface with natural turf.

Town were forced to play their opening three fixtures as an EFL side at Doncaster Rovers' Keepmoat Stadium, with the new Wetherby Road pitch not deemed ready for action until mid-October..

So, how did it fare during Saturday's showdown with the Bluebirds?

The playing surface did cut up in places during Saturday's League Two fixture with Barrow.

"It was good, but a bit strange. Obviously I've been here for over three years and not seen a grass pitch," Town goalkeeper James Belshaw reflected.

"It was quite different [to the 3G]. The club has done fantastic to turn it around in such a short space of time. I think it probably needed another three or four weeks to knit together, so it got a bit cut-up under foot today, which you expect from a new pitch.

"It was quite heavy towards the end, but I think that suited us because our fitness levels are so high. I don't think many teams will enjoy coming here. It's a cliche, but we want to make our home ground a fortress.

"We've played on a lot worse pitches than this. We've managed to go and play football at Chorley and Bradford Park Avenue where the pitches can really cut up, but here it was great. It was flat it was level. It's a new grass pitch, it will take some time to settle.

Town would eventually emerge victorious by a 1-0 scoreline.

"Going forwards it will be fine. It will suit our style of football."

Jack Muldoon, the man who scored the only goal of the game against Barrow, added: "It was a good win for the lads on a new pitch.

"The grass is a bit different to what we've been used to here with the 3G but we adapted to it quite well.

"As a kid you get brought playing on grass, so it's actually out of the ordinary to have been playing on 3G. We've done alright."

Having liked what he saw as he watched on from the sidelines, boss Weaver was full of positives when asked for his assessment of Town's new turf.

“I thought the pitch played really well. It was nice and firm,” he said.

“There were a couple of areas towards the Wetherby Road side where it cut up a little bit, but that’s to be expected because it is new grass.

"It just needs a bit longer to embed those roots a little bit deeper, though overall it is miles better than the last grass pitch we laid here seven years ago, which was like a big sponge mattress.

“We’re confident it will be a really good playing surface for us and no matter what, we’ll play our way. When the players see that green, perfect grass it lifts them because they know we can play football on it.

“I’ve no concerns. The groundsman has done an unbelieveable job and he knows his stuff.”