From the Terraces: A tense 90 minutes on the living room settee watching Harrogate Town's play-off win

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 8:23 am
Updated Thursday, 30th July 2020, 8:26 am
Will Smith beats visiting striker Matt Rhead to a header during Harrogate Town's play-off semi-final showdown with Boreham Wood. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

It’s not the way I’d envisaged the celebrations. "Dad, I’ve knocked my coffee over," says my daughter, Molly.

"Go and get a towel to soak it up," I reply, eyes glued firmly to the screen.

"But it’ll smell if we don’t clean it up now. And then we’ll have to buy a new carpet," she pleads.

Molly and Dave Worton cheer Town on from the Terraces earlier in 2019/20.

"It can wait 20 minutes, and then we’ll pull the settee out and clean it up properly," I retort, after no more than a cursory glance in the spilt coffee’s direction.

Jack Muldoon’s just headed Town into the lead, and my daughter became rather over excited in the process, throwing coffee everywhere.

She’d not disappeared round to her friend’s house to watch as originally planned, so we’re both perched on the settee in the living room, heart rates off the scale.

I wasn’t quite as surprised, as I’d seen the goal coming. Never had I been more certain that Town were going to score from the preceding corner.

But before you begin to marvel at my clairvoyant ability, let me explain.

Just a couple of minutes earlier, my daughter’s National League phone update had beeped.

"Dad, it says it’s one nil to Harrogate," Molly had exclaimed.

"What? It must be a mistake. It’s still nil-nil!" I’d responded, incredulous but puzzled.

Then Town won the decisive corner and my brain slowly clicked into gear. Muldoon finding the net confirmed my suspicions.

It wasn’t a mistake, of course, we were watching on a two minute delay, and thankfully he didn’t miss second time around. So much for ‘live’ TV. I tell my daughter to turn the mobile updates off.

Having been present at the Chorley match two years ago, I had thought that there was nothing more stressful than watching Town in a play-off semi-final. I was wrong.

Watching Town in a play-off semi-final on TV is far more stressful. There’s none of the usual match day routines, or people to talk to, in order to ease the nerves, and you feel that you can’t influence the outcome.

If I’d made it abundantly clear that watching football on television without crowds was pointless and dull, that was only because it wasn’t my team on the screen at that particular time.

Pre-match, the new Bolton manager, Ian Evatt, states that the visitors are the best side his now ex-Barrow team played all season, neatly forgetting that his Barrow players were affected by a virus the last time they met Boreham Wood and they still nicked a draw.

He also neglects to factor in Town’s 3-0 success at Holker Street two matches into the season.

I needn’t worry though. Watching the players march out on to the pitch, led by captain Falkingham in front of an empty stadium, with the new main stand occupied by cardboard cut-outs of people watching from home, it’s obvious Town mean business.

The look of steely determination is undeniable. There’s no outward sign of nerves.

The commenters agree that Boreham Wood, having played a competitive game already, will have the slight advantage here, before Town proceed to run rings round their visitors for forty minutes, both in a footballing and fitness sense.

It’s breath-taking to watch. Any doubts have been dispelled, this team has both the energy and desire to match.

There’s a lovely bit, around 20 minutes in, where the camera zooms into Ryan Fallowfield cracking a huge grin. His smile is matched only by the exuberance of his play.

Simon Weaver has stated that this bunch of players are a pleasure to work with. I can confirm that they’re a pleasure to watch too.

Our new signing, Aaron Martin, is looking keen up top and Jack Diamond’s picked up where he left off on the left wing.

The only worry is that the first goal doesn’t come, mostly due to a goalkeeper in form and a couple of good chances going begging.

Boreham Wood then gain the upper hand in the period immediately before and after half time, James Belshaw turning one away with his leg and Connor Hall blocking on the line. The game’s now balanced on a knife-edge.

The only way Town are going to beat this goalkeeper is via something a bit different, hence Will Smith’s header from the decisive corner possibly heading towards Nathan Ashmore’s safe hands until Muldoon nicks in front of him to apply the faintest of touches.

It’s the first goal Town have scored against their visitors in three home matches and we’re in dreamland.

The commentators now wonder if Boreham Wood will be able to find any energy left in their legs, having already played a competitive match. You couldn’t make stuff like this up. Except that they are, right here in front of us.

Jon Stead comes close to making it two and, apart from a big head-in-hands scare when Wood substitute Justin Shaibu pulls a shot wide, Town see the game out professionally in front of the corner flag and into added time.

It’s tense on the living room settee as four minutes of additional time are signalled. We’re so close to a trip to Wembley. Well, the players are anyway.

"Turn your updates back on," I say to my anxious daughter in the 92nd-minute. That way we can hopefully save ourselves two minutes of unnecessary worry.

The phone beeps.

"Full time!" shrieks Molly, and we proceed to watch the final two minutes ‘live’ on TV whilst enjoying the first moments of relative calm that afternoon.

Now we can celebrate, knowing that the job’s half done, though there’s a carpet still to clean and we have to go through all this again next week.