“Jesus is Lord” said the lorry trailer in a field near Wakefield on the drive up the A1(M) on Saturday. The sign was wrong, Jesus plays for Harrogate Railway Athletic. My seemingly Bi-Annual visit to York and to visit an old vegetarian friend. “I’ve had a fry up” he informed me. “Quorn Sausages and Eggs” no doubt to soak up a barrel full of overly hoppy beer. In my book it’s not really a fry up if the word Quorn is involved but as I get older I try to turn a blind eye to such fallacies of weak inference.
So off to York Station via his excellent local boozer which is now a owned by it’s clientèle. The unnecessary intellectual hippies have taken over. The Frank Gallagher drawing is still on the walls of the pisser but there’s been a shift in the clientèle. Swampy types. Ear-rings and clothes directly from Exeter College circa 1991, but disappointingly I saw no army surplus bags with Mega City Four drawn on with permanent marker. The bums lost Mr Lebowski, the bums lost. However now they own one of York’s finest Boozoirs. Father of the swampy son trying to hide the evidence that the family had been eating Patisserie Valerie cupcakes in a beer garden when there were three varieties of pork pies on offer in the bar. The horror, the horror. What the fuck has happened to the north? They’ll be a social stigma attached to wife beating next. Although my friend tells me that you still have to go to Leeds to buy the better trainers.
York railway station is a delight. A little bit like Bristol Temple Meads but without the rural stench of Bristolian accents or confused Welshman wondering why everyone has shoes on. It did, outside, have groups of metro-sexual northern lads dressed in Hollister, chinos with elasticated bottoms and those pointy girly espadrille type slip-ons as well as groups of gaudily-clad orange-skinned sturdy girls swigging chilled Rosé from Red Bull style cans.
So platform 8 and off to Starbeck we went via Poppleton, Hammerton, Cattal and over the rather scenic viaduct at the equally scenic Knaresbrough. The little two-coacher chugged willingly into our destination. A short 5 minute walk and we arrived at Station View for Harrogate Rail Athletic’s FA Cup tie against West Auckland Town of the Northern League. So in theory it was a Step 4 v Step 5 clash but as we know the Northern League is more of a step 4 and a half. The best players in the non league are quite happy to stay in that league as moving up the non league pyramid sees crowds decrease and travel costs increase. Three Northern League clubs have won the FA Vase for the last 6 seasons.
But first things first. Food. A first for me. Hot pork pie with mushy pies and mint sauce. The best thing I’ve have ever tasted especially for the £1.90 I paid. The hot crusty pasty, the warm river of peas, the tangy mint sauce and the hot pork meat. Utterly amazing if it looks a bit suspect. Well more than a bit suspect to most eyes.
Station View is a fairly basic ground without many redeeming features. It has a big sideways slope, two open sides, a tiny covered Arena style seated stand and a half seated, half standing concoction all the way behind the other goal. It’s not really the most photogenic of grounds but the row of terraced houses behind it gave it a half decent backdrop.
West Auckland Town were much the better side in the first half. Stronger, faster, quicker and they carved out the better opportunities. They played the better football as well. Harrogate had one or two as well but were incredibly wasteful in possession. The number 7 persisted (a cross between Earl Crabtree and Robbie Savage) in trying to play Stevie Gerrard type Hollywood balls but they rarely came off enough to warrant trying them in the first place.
After only 15 minutes West Auckland United went ahead. A decent cross into the bit in between the 6 yard box and the penalty spot cause havoc and Richardson prodded home. Half time and 0-1 to the visitors. The Rail trudged off in trepidation of the half time hair dryer treatment.
The second half carried on from the first half. West Auckland looking far more likely to score than the home side. Five minutes later West Auckland’s John Campbell latched onto a ball over the top and smashed it home. 0-2! Down and dusted. The coach load of West Auckland supports certainly thought so.
But no, gradually the Rail got themselves into the match. Jesus getting plenty of encouragement from the touchline. “Keep running them channels, Jesus” said an old fella with a lovely North Yorkshire accent. A cross came in from the right and Jesus Martin-Farina skilfully took a touch and then hit it past the keeper. 1-2! Ten minutes from time the comeback was complete. The wildest of hacks on The Rail’s Jon Maloney and the ref gave the season’s most clear cut penalty. Centre half Dan Thirkell punted the ball into the roof of the net. 2-2! Still West Auckland weren’t done for the afternoon. Steven Richardson engineered himself a half chance and hit the post. The second half was worth it alone for the banter between several pissed up Rail supporters and the West Auckland bench.
So it ended 2-2. 157 fans turned up. We trudged off back to York and a beer festival. West Auckland won the replay 4-2 a few days later.