From the Terraces: We should be two points better off

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton’s view on the 2019/20 campaign

Thursday, 29th August 2019, 7:23 am
Josh Falkingham, left, congratulates Jon Stead after Harrogate Town took the lead against AFC Fylde, only for the goal to then be ruled out. Picture: Matt Kirkham

The coach is sitting impatiently in front of my house, as I’m scrabbling around looking for my suitcase upstairs.

When I eventually find it, it’s full of junk left over from my previous trip. I tip it out all over the floor, telling my wife that “I’ll clear it up when I get back’’, before joining the others on the coach.

It’s then I realise with horror that I haven’t actually packed anything.

A loud bleeping noise cuts through the morning. It’s 6.30am. I groan and switch the alarm clock off.

There’s a dog to walk and an 8.30am coach to Lytham St Annes to catch. I think this football lark’s beginning to get to me. But more about that later.

I used to look forward to playing Stockport at Wetherby Road. That was until they thrashed us in the Trophy last season.

This time around, however, it’s a fairly even first half, both teams have chances but suffer from limp finishing.

The bright spark for Town is the debut of Alex Bradley, he looks keen, finding space and wanting the ball.

After the previous two home matches, I’m happy to get to half-time at nil-all.

Town step it up a gear again after half-time though, dominating possession in a real dangerous spell. Josh Falkingham dissects the entire Stockport defence with a slide-rule pass to a marauding Ryan Fallowfield, whose first-time cross is hammered in by Mark Beck.

Falkingham then undid his good work when caught trying to play football in his own area, rather than pumping the ball into Row Z, sorry, Row C of the 1919 stand.

We look to have shot ourselves in the foot and I’m settling for the point, as Bradley is announced man-of-the-match.

The thoughts of some people around me is that it should go to Beck, but I don’t agree.

Then, in the 93rd minute, Brendan Kiernan audaciously takes down a ball he has no right to control, cuts inside, looks up and slides the ball into the path of the on-rushing Bradley who drives into the corner of the net.

“He’s definitely man-of-the-match now”, states the bloke next to me after we’ve finished flinging ourselves around like lunatics.

I make a mental note to get next week’s lottery numbers off whoever chose man-of-the-match. How on earth did he know that was going to happen?

It’s a massive three points for Town, wiping away the hurt of the previous three defeats, and we look much better with three in central midfield.

Two days later, my daughter Molly and I find ourselves on the beach at Lytham St Annes.

The sun’s shining in Harrogate, but here at Lytham it’s slightly overcast. This always happens when I put my shorts on.

We’re watching a match between Town and Fylde supporters, bags down for goalposts, a result of a friendship that was struck up between the clubs a few years back.

I would take part, but I ‘retired’ 20 years ago having been taken out by a dodgy tackle on Woodhouse Moor, but that’s a story for another day.

Oh well, if you insist. I was playing in the Falkingham deep midfield role when the pitch opened up for me.

Finding myself with just one defender between myself and the goal, I pushed the ball around her and went the other side, sensing glory and the adoration of my team-mates.

It was then I was taken out by a crude elbow and had to retire with bruised ribs. I’ve played rarely since.

Fylde’s fans take the lead, before the game’s stopped to allow a dangerous hole in the pitch to be filled. Town force their way back into it heroically, but the home team win it with a cracker of a goal.

After four hours at the seaside, during which time we lose our obligatory £2.72 in the 2p slot machines, our coach sets off for Mill Farm and arrives barely 10 minutes before kick-off.

From the off, something seems strange. There’s very little atmosphere in the home end and Fylde are a shadow of the team they were last season. Even Danny Rowe is hitting free-kicks tamely wide.

Maybe we should give Town credit for handling them in a more mature way than the play-off match when we went two down in 10 fateful minutes.

Whatever, I’m not complaining. If Town can step it up 10 per cent in the second half, the Coasters are there for the taking.

It doesn’t happen and the air of lethargy extends eventually to the normally boisterous Town fans.

Then, after 73 fairly forgettable minutes, a moment of utter controversy causes a proper football match to break out.

Jon Stead, on for Beck, capitalises on a shoddy backpass and slots in past the keeper right in front of us.

The away end erupts and, when we’ve finished flinging ourselves around like lunatics again, something’s not right.

The ref points to his arm after discussions with the linesman and disallows the ‘goal’.

We react in fury and bewilderment to what seems like the chalking off of a perfectly good goal. It feels like we’ve been VAR-ed.

It turns out that the ball brushed Stead’s arm unintentionally on the way past him from the defender, and the delayed handball decision from the linesman is solely because Stead went on to place the ball in the net. If he hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been handball. Work that one out.

Last season the goal would have stood. This season, under the new rule change, it’s chalked off.

The law is a complete ass. It doesn’t help that the handball was so slight, that only the linesman seemingly saw it in real time.

The Town players seem incensed at the injustice of it all and lay siege to the home goal, hitting the woodwork for the second time and creating other chances, but it just won’t go in.

The officials leave the pitch to a chorus of ‘It’s a robbery’ although, in reality, they probably think the law’s lousy too.

The Town players are applauded off by the travelling fans. Fylde really got away with one today.

Molly and I arrive home with the coachload of Town fans, including 18 youngsters, shattered but happy. It’s been a really great day out. Four points from the two bank holiday matches is a decent return, but it could and should have been six.