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Friday 14th April 2017 ko 14.30

Northern Counties East League Premier Division

HARROGATE RAILWAY ATHLETIC 0 Morris sent off 22 (DOGSO)

PICKERING TOWN 5 (Taylor 23 Thompson 34 Birch 45 Bissett 51 Blott 60)

Att 353

Entry £5

Programme £2

We were grateful to the folk at Garforth Town for suggest we didn’t use the A1(M). The road was choked with Bank Holiday traffic, so the travelling circus travelled north on the old road glancing to the right to see the stationary traffic on the A1 and to the left as we passed Aberford Albion! The tip saved us quite a bit of time, and we reached Harrogate, well Starbeck in plenty of time. 

It has to said Harrogate Railway are well named, you can see the trains from the ground, and Starbeck station is a 5 minute walk away. From a personal perspective I was happy to be revisiting here, for the most tragic of reasons.

Back in 2006 I was nearby on holiday and obtained a pass-out from my then-wife to go and watch a game. Since a two match pass was not forthcoming I had a choice, I could watch either Harrogate Town, or Harrogate Railway. I settled on Railway, the name looked interesting, but at Harrogate Town Hinckley Town’s Matt Gadsby suffered a fatal heart attack on the pitch. He was just 27.

Since my last visit, a large clubhouse has been built on a corner of what used to be the cricket pitch. I imagined that was due to their 2002-3 FA Cup run that eventually ended with a home defeat to Bristol City in the second road. That it isn’t points to the tragedy of Railway’s predicament.

The club are struggling, the money’s run out, the players are unpaid, and the club are looking for ways to leverage a future. The Bristol City money only paid off existing debts, and today the problems are mounting. One solution would be to sell the clubhouse and build something more modest in the car park, another would be to sell the whole ground and move someone less appealing to house builders. The decision is the club’s, they are a members club, but it was clear that difficult decisions will need to be made.

The club were a joy to deal with, and hosted beautifully but you could see the budget cuts had hit the team hard. Michael Morris’ handball preventing a certain goal, saw his dismissal, and magnified Railway’s problems, but the question wasn’t whether Pickering would win, but by how much.

In the end it was a case of inwardly wincing at the Pikes rammed home yet another goal. Nothing against Pickering, they were great hosts 4 years ago, but it felt like kicking a good man where he’s down. Hopefully Railway will find a solution to their problems, I’d like to think this bumper crowd helped.

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