From the Terraces: Harrogate Town deserve to be playing in front of bigger crowds
Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton’s weekly fan column.
Entering Harrogate Town’s CNG Stadium at the 1919 end these days feels like a bit of a novelty.
There’s no enforced segregation inside the ground and so we take up our positions in the tea bar-end of the Wetherby Road stand for the Eastleigh FA Trophy match, just like the old days.
“It’s a much better view here,” agree my daughter Molly and her friends.
One very vocal visiting fan, in a blue and white bobble hat, plants himself at the front of the home choir to enjoy the game, even though his team are attacking the far end, and a nice bit of banter ensues.
Personally, I’ve no time for teams putting out a second-string XI in a cup match.
If Liverpool aren’t going to take the FA Cup seriously, for example, kick them out I say. Controversial, I know, but there you go.
I think we’ve firmly established though that Town making six changes doesn’t mean they’re fielding a weaker team, not when the players coming in can count themselves unlucky to be out of the starting XI in the first place.
Moving Warren Burrell and Alex Bradley into their favoured midfield positions to make room for Ryan Fallowfield and George Smith defence isn’t a weakening of the team in my opinion. It’s also a good chance to look at the two new squad additions.
Kian Harratt, 17, exhibits no little confidence for his tender years and displays a willingness to strike at goal from anywhere.
He looks to be the sort of player that thrives off making runs off the back of the last defender and it just needs Town players to spot him in these positions more.
It’s a promising full debut indeed, capped by an assist for Bradley’s opening goal, a first time shot whistling past the stranded keeper.
If I have one criticism of Town, it’s that their players often take one touch too much in front of goal, so these developments are encouraging.
Defensively, Maxim Kouogun slots in seamlessly alongside the dependable Will Smith, and becomes an instant crowd favourite.
The Town faithful cobble a song together off the back of a fag packet and he’s serenaded with it when he comes over to applaud the Kop at full-time.
The visitors are finally put to bed when Jack Emmett comes on and threads home four minutes from time.
“We’re the famous Harrogate Town and we’re off to Wem-ber-lee” we sing, followed by “It’s a long way back to Eastleigh when you’ve lost.”
The bobble hat-headed Eastleigh fan, who’s come round with us to the Kop for the second half, decides to make his way back round the ground to his own fans.
He applauds the Kop, and we applaud him back. After the stolen banners distraction of last week, this is football back to how it should be.
It’s an all-round comprehensive performance, leaving Simon Weaver with a selection headache ahead of the big promotion six-pointer with Yeovil on Tuesday night.
One thing in table-topping Barrow’s favour up until now has been the unwelcoming, inhospitable nature of their ground, based as it is out in the middle of nowhere, a chilling gale blowing in off the Irish Sea across a heavy pitch.
By contrast, Harrogate offers a fat rascal and cucumber sandwiches with the crust cut off at Betty’s.
Well, not this time, one day after Storm Ciara.
It must be cold, as Molly’s friend, Lily, has the scarf I gave her on for the first time this season.
As it turns out, the manager leaves the two goal-scorers against Eastleigh, Bradley and Emmett, out of the team to face Yeovil, in favour of Fallowfield and George Thomson.
It’s a tough call, but one that’s justified on the night, as these two cause havoc down the right flank, Thomson scoring twice and setting up the other of the hosts’ three goals.
The fact visiting manager Darren Sarrl unjustly called Town “negative” in a severe case of sour grapes, after our 2-1 win at their place, isn’t lost on the Kop, who spend much of the latter part of the second half reminding him of this in no uncertain terms.
He goes on to describe his team’s performance as ‘woeful’ and ‘toothless’ in an interview where he looks like he’s lost a tenner and found a penny, although he can still hardly bear to give Harrogate any praise at all.
Whisper it, but Town look the real deal. It’s just a shame more people aren’t here to witness it.
The only dampener on one of the best performances of the season is the attendance.
Whilst there’s a fair contingent of a hundred or so brave souls up from Yeovil, the home turnout appears lower than the weekend.
It’s a hugely disappointing crowd for such a crunch match.
The release of average attendance figures this week shows the Town average more than 200 down on last season, placing us 19th in the attendance league, with all the big away followings having already been and gone.
The crowd on Tuesday turns out to be fully 532 below this season’s average.
I know we’ve had a rapid rise from 250 hardy souls at home, but this team really does deserve to be playing in front of an audience totalling more than 801 people.