From the Terraces: Memories of Harrogate Town's penultimate season in National League North

The latest instalment of Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton’s weekly fan column.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 8:09 am
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 8:15 am
Harrogate Town midfielder Lloyd Kerry was forced to play in a face mask during the 2016/17 season. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to take a slightly dewy-eyed trip down memory lane with a few recollections of Harrogate Town’s final two seasons in National League North.

These reminisces were part of the very first unsolicited article I sent to the Harrogate Advertiser, telling the story of how my daughter and I had lost our hearts to Town.

They never saw the light of day as the article was so long that, even when edited down to half the size, it still occupied two pages of the newspaper.

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It was shortly afterwards that I was approached to contribute a column cataloguing Town’s first season in the National League and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve retained the odd sentence from the original newspaper article to maintain continuity, and added to my original words as I think my writing’s improved with age.

Or, as my wife and the Advertiser editor will testify ‘Why use one word when three will do?’

I hope these snippets from the cutting room floor bring back a few memories of a campaign that kicked off with a 2-2 draw on the road at Worcester City.

My daughter’s first ever away trip in the 2016/17 season was to The Shay, where she saw her favourite player, Jack Emmett, hammer in the only goal of the game from distance.

The other unfortunate standout memory from the day was watching Halifax fans boo fan hero Lloyd Kerry for perceived time-wasting, when he went down late on with a lengthy injury, prior to getting up and walking very slowly off the pitch.

It transpired that Lloyd had sustained a fractured eye socket, a nasty injury that lead to him wearing a mask when he eventually made his comeback.

One of the highlights of that season, celebrated wildly by us, was Town hanging on to defeat Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 at Wetherby Road, despite only having nine men left on the pitch.

To truly rub salt into Bradford’s wounds, our keeper Peter Crook saved a penalty. And the rebound.

If the first sending off of JP Pittman just before half-time was justified, the second was a total injustice.

Our goal machine at the time, Simon Ainge, was dismissed for a seemingly innocuous challenge in front of the corner flag by a card- happy referee.

Now, I work with someone who used to play for Bradford Park Avenue and was reliably informed that the offending Bradford defender felt a mere touch from Ainge before collapsing like he’d been shot from behind, throwing in a melodramatic yelp for good effect.

Our emergency-centre-forward-in-an-injury-crisis Ainge banged, well mostly headed, in goal after goal that season, becoming the second highest scorer in the country behind England and Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane.

It was an even more impressive statistic when you realise he played out the first four months of the season in central defence.

There was one unforgettable spell when every Joe Leesley cross seemed to unerringly find Ainge’s head like a guided missile.

My favourite chant of the season was reserved for the visit of Penistone Church in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.

The Church bought around a hundred fans for their big day out and they elected to stand in the Kop next to the Town fans.

During a quiet spell, the chant went up from the home fans, “Shall we sing a song for you?”

On garnering no response, there was a long pause before one Town wag started up with ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful …’ Church lost 3-0, but it was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and commitment of their supporters and players that day.

The campaign ended in anti-climax as Town slipped out of the play-off positions and ended up in 11th place, but it had still been a season of improvement off the pitch, with the average crowd nudging towards 1,000.