From the Terraces: Another fantastic Harrogate Town achievement is tinged with sadness
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton’s view on the 2020/21 campaign – the club’s first-ever in the Football League
It’s been a momentous, and mainly good, week for Harrogate Town on the pitch.
After last Saturday’s demolition of Southend, the visit of Walsall provided a much sterner test for our newly-promoted team, and going one down after four minutes made the task all that much harder.
It was therefore pleasing to see the players respond as we know they can, and the visitors were really pushed onto the back foot for the remainder of a marvellous first half for Town.
If it was a little disappointing that we couldn’t hold out for the win, as the players ran out of steam in the second half following their cup exertions at West Brom, it was still a very good point, well-earned against a team of apparent giants (well, from what I could summise from the small screen we were watching it on).
A draw was a fair reflection of the game, although my daughter Molly did confess to me later that when the first Walsall goal went in, she thought we were going to be witnessing a repeat of the defeat at the Hawthorns in midweek. It was a rare aberration for my normally optimistic daughter.
It has to be said, however, that Town don’t look out of place in the Football League thus far, and the early signs are definitely encouraging.
It’s a quite remarkable statistic that our first home game in each of the last three seasons have followed virtually the same pattern; each match finishing two-all, with the visitors scoring first, Town coming back strongly to lead 2-1,but then being unable to hold onto the lead. I’ll therefore take the Walsall match as a good omen.
Bizarrely, Town then dipped a toe back into last season to defeat Notts County in the FA Trophy semi-final on Tuesday night and earn an unbelievable second trip to Wembley. Can this year get any weirder?
Not having to play the match the day after the West Brom tie, handed us a slight fitness advantage, in that the Magpies are still in their pre-season, and haven’t yet kicked off in the National League, whereas we are already six competitive matches in.
Nevertheless, Simon Weaver signalled his intent and determination to make sure his players got to Wembley by fielding his current strongest side, something he’s done for five of our six matches so far.
It showed in the first half, as Town passed rings round the home side, but found themselves going in at the interval with just the one goal to show for their efforts.
If the second half was a little more open, and we were forced to endure a couple of scares in front of goal, Town still ran out deserved winners.
I was, however, struck by the underwhelming nature of this brilliant achievement, due to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our victory was met by a small cheer from my daughter and I, watching it on YouTube; a far cry from the wild celebrations during Storm Jorge at AFC Fylde, after that gloriously thrilling quarter-final victory way back in February.
Hence my joy at reaching Wembley again was tinged with a little sadness for what we’ve currently lost.
Concord Rangers of the National League South, a team from Canvey Island in Essex, await us in the final, and it’s important that this match isn’t played until fans are able to attend. May this mean cancelling this season’s FA Trophy competition, unless circumstances improve?
So, despite a fairly successful week on the pitch, the news off the pitch has been grim for supporters.
With coronavirus on the march once more, and the announcement of new government restrictions, trials of crowds at EFL matches, with a view to seeing some spectators back in stadiums by the start of October, have been put on hold.
Having not been able to apply to take part in the pilot scheme for fans at the Walsall match due to the illness of the Doncaster Rovers’ stadium manager, we were hopeful that we may have received the go ahead for some supporters to attend the Bolton ‘home’ fixture on October 3.
Sadly, this will now not be the case and, understandably, nobody can yet commit to a date for fans to return.
We therefore move on to a tough match with Port Vale on Saturday, and yet another date with the flat screen.