Weatherby Road – Harrogate Town (Altrincham Perspective)

27 Feb

Harrogate Town – 3

Altrincham – 2

Football Conference North – 19th August 2011

Ah a new season, so much expectation, so much hope, the belief that “this could our year”, especially for those who have been relegated.

For my team, Altrincham, this summer was an unusual one as for the first time we’d been relegated from the conference and actually gone down. With a large number of clubs going bust Altrincham had always managed to stay up – even when deducted 18 points. The summer had meant a large scale re-build of the squad and a new management team, and after beating Tranmere and putting some highly convincing performances there was much hope for this new season.

So after months of waiting for the real action start (Any real football fan, which are those who support teams below the Sky Sports Championship, knows the season actually begins one week earlier). This was my first ever opening day away game, and I was like a kid in the run up to Christmas. So after meeting up at 7:00am, consuming a full English breakfast and beverages we boarded the “9:12 party train” and took over the vast majority of the carriages.

We reached Leeds station still in high spirits and after numerous group photos, we took over the next train with the chant of “we’re the best behaved supported in the league” ringing out, we set off for Harrogate.

For those who live in Manchester and have been in the vicinity of Old Trafford, you’ll have seen hundred of foreign supporters taking souvenir pictures. This is what greeted us at one of the stations on that particular day. Pulling in to the station with flags out the windows and the songs in full flow resulted in a large group of Japanese tourists snapping away and joining us to document our next stage in the journey. Eventually we arrived in Starbeck around midday and invaded a local pub, which resulted in my favourite moment of the day. The pub was filled with fans both young and old, and this is where the atmosphere was kicked up a notch. Many drinks later the party moved on to Harrogate.

The ground itself is typical for this level. Very tidy and well maintained with a social club decked out in scarves from various clubs from across the globe. After paying a few quid to enter (a nice change from paying nearly triple in a lot of BSP clubs), a few refreshments, we began to build an atmosphere. The balloons were blown up, the flags were hung and waving flags given out and confetti and smoke bombs were prepared. This was it, the moment we’d waited for 3 months. With kick off fast approaching the Altrincham contingent began to become more and more vocal, with the chants of “we’re here and we’re from Altrincham” and the day’s signature chant “taking over, taking over Harrogate” belted out.

The game began with Altrincham looking sluggish, and typically the atmosphere was spoilt by the strong looking defence being breached early on. Undeterred by this, the atmosphere was pumped up, however after twenty minutes the awarding of a Harrogate penalty meant Altrincham were 2nd bottom in the conference north and 2-0 down. The game wasn’t pretty after that, both teams playing long ball football and the Altrincham fans wondering where a goal would come from.

After the re-start Altrincham looked sharper and brighter. Chance after chance came Altrincham’s way with Harrogate defending like it was their cup final. But just after the hour mark last years public enemy number 1. Michael Twiss converted his chance. This was quickly followed by his partner Damien Reeves equalising after 69 minutes. The comeback was complete…

In the final half hour, there were several incidents worth mentioning. The first involved a second yellow for Harrogate’s Tait leaving the home side with 10 men for the remainder of the game. It was then all Altrincham. Michael Twiss then had two successive shots cleared off the line as the game went into the final 10 minutes. Danylyk also had a volley cleared off line and when Paul Jones went close with a header at the back post in stoppage time, Altrincham thought that despite not clinching a winner they’d take home a well deserved draw. However with second to go, a long punt forward, Alty conceded a penalty and Adam Flynn was dismissed. This – even according to Harrogate players and fans (after the games) – was a poor decision. The spot kick was converted.

This wasn’t the end of the drama. Harrogate’s tunnel actually goes through the stand, and is effectively two metal gates which allow a mini tunnel to be temporally created at KO, HT and FT. After the game finished the Harrogate players and management staff decided to respond to the Altrincham fans that had congregated here to clap off their own players, trying to incite a bigger reaction. This involved several Harrogate players arguing and swearing at fans, as well as some foul language and threats in return.
However in true non-league fashion, all those involved went to the bar to have a drink with each other and discuss the rest of the season. The Altrincham fans who had stayed proceeded (with permission) to have a 7-a-side game on the pitch with some of the remaining Harrogate supporters.

There are some away days where the result is simply the icing on the cake, and this would have been one of them. This day was one not likely to be forgotten, and I’m glad I went. If Altrincham don’t bounce straight back, I will certainly be making a return.

About Jack Jolly

Jack Jolly, fan of away days and an Altrincham fan. You can follow him on Twitter at @jaka03.

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