Harrogate Town 1 County 2 : ( FA Cup 2QR) 27 September 2014

County  secured a place in Monday`s  FA Cup draw with an excellent 2-1 win in North Yorkshire against Harrogate Town, thanks to goals from the returning Richie Baker and ace sniffer of trifles Kristian Dennis.
If the first goal was arguably against the run of play, there was no doubting in the end that County were worthy winners. Yes...... County did have a fair bit of pressure to absorb in the 90 odd minutes, but much of it was instigated by balls of the high and hopeful variety from Town, who looked a poor replica of the team that humbled us at the same venue early last term.
Matthew Todd- terrific display under pressure !

County, with debut boy Matthew Todd playing an absolute blinder, coped handsomely with all the Yorkshire side could throw at them. Fagbola was back in for the injured Gregson and played well at centre back along with Lees and O`Halloran. All 3 did well as did Scott Duxbury, but then so did just about everyone in yet another excellent team showing, from a County side that seems brim full of confidence now!
Wetherby Road is a fine stadium( pardon me not calling it the CNG Stadium), and the catering on site was exceptional( for details see the County programme soon), and it was good to see County`s young team in obvious high spirits in the hour before kickoff time. The locals were in good spirits too, except the bloke in the house immediately next to the ground who erupted in incandescent rage at the sight of the drum being decamped from the Flyer.

 At this point I offer a helpful Rule of Thumb to those wishing to avoid noise....do not buy a house alongside a football stadium! Another local thought 4-0 was how it would go in favour of the side in yellow and black...it took about 20 minutes to reduce this hopeful theory to a pile of ashes!
Back to 3 o`clock then , and it took Callum Hassan  just a couple of minutes to get half a chance. It was the first of a plethora of long throws from Leigh Franks that set him up, after Fagbola and Lees had made affective interventions, but the header from the number nine flew inches wide. James Walshaw then saw a shot deflected for a corner which Franks failed to force home from close in.

Dennis tracks back........

Dennis, sporting a newly acquired aero dynamically sound hair cut, shot wide himself after 5 minutes, but this was an isolated interruption in the game`s flow, which seemed to be about County fending off ball after ball heading their way from the clouds, and normal service was resumed as Lees was on hand to hook the ball clear as Rhys Meynell`s ball had pinged in after first endangering traffic en route Leeds/ Bradford airport! Much more of that was to come!
It must be said at the same time though, that County did contribute a bit to the pressure they were under- instance Lees who wrapped his arms around Craig Nelthorpe  not that far away from the referee. This action was in front of the main stand way out near the touchline, so we were under no pressure......until the free kick was conceded. County cleared the incoming kick well enough, but the pressure could have been avoided, instead  Lees  repeated the dosage, necessitating that he make a decisive clearance under the bar from a shot by Walshaw.
Despite this pressure ...already it was possible to say with confidence that Matthew Todd was doing really well, and twice he won the ball and ushered it forward. Fagbola and Hurst looked in good nick too, and the latter had to make a firm punch out as yet another free kick headed in from on high.
By about 17 minutes in, County had weathered the storm somewhat, and they were disappointed to see Franks track back to hook the ball clear after Milligan had picked Sharp out with one of his typically insightful balls!

Sharp and Meynell do battle.....

 That was the 17th minute.....one minute on from that and County went one up and it had Baker`s imprint running right through it...the busy midfielder having latched onto the ball just inside the Town half before allowing Milligan to send Sharp on a run. From there it went wide to where Baker now was positioned and he quickly sent the ball speeding goal ward where a clutch of players clucked and fussed over it. Not sure if anyone got a touch on it, and it mattered not, as Baker was turning joyfully towards his teammates, and the ball was nestling in the back of the net!
That was excellent...County were one up, and within a couple of minutes it might just have been 2...as Baker again  appeared on the edge of the box to send Dennis darting clear. Dennis`s initial thrust was rebuffed before keeper Phil Barnes was forced to make a save to keep a shot by Duxbury out.
County were looking good now, particularly Baker and Todd, but a promising raid was cut short by a tug on a County shirt, thankfully spotted by the referee. This ushered in Milligan`s first free kick, and it was an absolute belter forcing Barnes into making a spectacular save to deny him!

Phil  Barnes somehow keeps Milligan strike out !

On it went, and Lees did good work to stem a wave of Town attacks that threatened to re-establish Town`s ascendency. It didn`t though.....instead County almost went 2 up again thanks to Todd, who ghosted into the box before teeing up a shooting chance for Dennis. For sure....a shot followed, but so did another Barnes save, and with the resultant corner being cleared that was that for now.

O`Halloran heads clear.

The pressure then resumed on County, fuelled by a raft of free kicks and high and hopeful balls. Thankfully County were dealing with all this well- the back 5 in top form, and with an offside trap functioning really well. They were getting forward too and looking OK in doing so – a free kick flying out with Sharp a whisker away, at the back post, from applying a finish. A sliced back pass by Meynell added to Barnes` discomfiture, and Nelthorpe hooked a Duxbury effort off the line,as we headed towards the break.

Harrogate under pressure.

There was time for Dennis to receive a booking  for `kicking the ball away` which I thought was totally ludicrous, and for Sharp and Todd to earn applause with decisive defensive headers, before a blast of the referees whistle sent the teams in for the break with the score still 1-0 to County.
Straight off from the re-start, County were in Harrogate`s faces, but Sharp`s shot was deflected for a corner which Meynell dived to head clear.

Dennis in the thick of things......

 This led to what I calculated to be the hundred and fortieth long throw from Town ( I could be wrong with that calculation), and a header by Hassan that O`Halloran saw out for a corner. Hurst struggled with this when the ball whizzed over from Luke Dean, and Milligan did really well to close Adam Nowakowski down and stop a shot further inconveniencing the County keeper. From this County showed us their new found metal as Milligan then sent Churchman clear. From Churchman it went on to Sharp, and the goal beckoned as the forward shaped to shoot, but when he did the shot struck the side netting and it stayed 1-0.
This ushered in a reply from Harrogate, as Hassan headed over....Churchman blocked a shot by Walshaw . This was interrupted by a break by Dennis, but with no support, this came to nought, forcing O`Halloran to make a timely game saver to deny Walshaw from getting a shot in from the resultant break.   
The play ebbed and flowed a bit after this.....Franks upending Dennis, conceding a free kick that Milligan sent down Barnes` throat...

Milligan free kick ( first half)

...then Milligan sold O`Halloran short with a pass that allowed Hassan a run on goal. Thankfully only a corner resulted and this was cleared by the industrious Sharp.......end of story perhaps?......err.....no.....as from Sharp`s clearance the ball sped rapidly ,via an immaculate pass from Milligan, to Dennis  who raced goal ward as if his life depended upon it! Only Barnes stood between the County number nine and glory, and somehow he managed to get something on the shot, only for it to spin out of his hands behind him into the unguarded net! It was 2-0 and I could already imagine Mark Lockyear finding useful things to spend the £4500 prize money on.

Captain Fantastic....Jamie Milligan.

Although Harrogate came back at County after this ,County looked well capable of hitting on the break and it was good to see the young County lads ( Todd, Churchman, Fagbola and Duxbury) doing so well under pressure.

Duxbury on the charge......

 Churchman was a case in point –thrust into the pit to face his daemons but facing up well....not getting everything 100% right, but he is getting there, and a terrific ball from him was only prevented from putting Dennis clear for his second, by a great last ditcher from Matt Bloomer.
Duxbury...we are rather used now to taking for granted- a measure of his quality. Then there was  Todd , and he was turning up all over the place doing good stuff –setting Dennis up nicely with 20 minutes left, only to see him slip when going for it! And.....Fagbola? Well....I am full of praise for his stickability- a confidence player who  has regularly seen his dented recently, but thrust back in there- gives a brave display. Well done I say as loudly as I can!

Fagbola (top)& Churchman ( below) on the ball.

A minute after the Dennis slip, County got a wake-up call as substitute Ryan Kendall struck a post after Hassan had headed the ball down to him in the box.
That was a let off ,for sure, but County weathered the storm that followed – a header from Hassan ,5 minutes later, being the closest Harrogate came to capitalising on the situation ....that and a shot from Nowakowski that had Hurst diving to tip the ball over the bar.
Yes......County had weathered the storm as I say, and again, with the defence in fine form, looked as solid as they ever have recently. With about 10 minutes left however a slight blip appeared on the County radar and Barnes initiated it with a meaty swing of the leg that sent the ball bouncing into the County box via the heavens. Although Jake Speight fancied his chances, Hurst looked favourite should he advance to get it, but he didn`t...he stayed put, and Speight took full advantage leathering his shot into the net to make it 2-1.
Sharp up for it........

Hurst recovered from that last action to quickly make a decent catch not long after, but we plainly needed another goal to kill off any chance of a full blown Town recovery, but Dennis disappointed with a shot that drifted wide with Barnes in a tizz.

Second Goal Huddle......

Dennis had clearly run himself ragged and was replaced by Woolfe with 7 minutes left, but it was Harrogate who were pressing at this point, largely through Kendall , whose luck was clearly out as O`Halloran...Lees, and Fagbola all contrived to fashion clearances when lesser defenders would have crumbled. When Baker joined in, the pressure was off for County as Churchman darted clear, but young Chris ran out of steam upon reaching the box and his shot gave Barnes little trouble.
Sharp did go close, with added time beckoning, before being replaced by Spencer, and Meynell did gift us a rather comic cuts corner after this, but with County trying` keep ball’ near the corner flag it was not long before the referee blew for time to signal the end of the game.

Keep Ball courtesy Harrogate Hatter Andrew Moxon.

That was a badly needed win, and the £4500 it brings in is a great help to the Club at this point in our history.
At last it is possible to see something stirring in the County on field pot, and it`s distinctly good to see! Confidence and positivity abounds and is a massive tribute to players and staff.
On wards and upwards then....with maybe a minnow at home next time out!

County line up:

Hurst, Todd, Fagbola, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Baker, Churchman, Dennis( Woolfe 83), Milligan, Sharp( Spencer 89).

Substitutes not used:

Ormson, Lazenbury, Hancock, Belezika.

Harrogate Town line up:

Barnes , Bloomer, Meynell, Franks, Heath, Dean, Kerry, Nowakowski, Hassan, Walshaw, Nelthorpe.


Speight, Crook,Kendall, Killock, Rowe, Swain ,Emmett.

Attendance:  604

Ian Brown

The following is a Review of Conferenec North by Ian Watts ( Additional Gallery Follows after this item);.....


A brief review of the days FA Cup results involving the Vanarama Conference North sides.

There were two all Conference North ties. As witnessed at Wetherby Road, Harrogate Town were one of the sides to lose out. The other internecine battle saw four goals shared at Bradford Park Avenue so they will now visit AFC Fylde on Tuesday.

The other sides in Monday's draw but paired alongside another name are Lowestoft (0-0 draw at Coalville Town), Gloucester City (1-1 draw at Paulton Rovers), and Brackley Town (2-2 draw at home to Farnborough). As a result of these drawn games Gloucester v Solihull on Tuesday is now postponed. Worcester City versus Boston United should go ahead and could affect County's position in the League table.

Only two other sides won through away from home. These were Guiseley, who won 1-0 at Droylsden, and North Ferriby United who won 2-1 down the coast at Cleethorpes Town..

Tamworth  celebrated victory in their first game under new management by beating Richard Sneekes' Rushall Olympic side 2-1. A Midlands derby saw Worcester City win 3-1 against Rugby Town and Boston United won by the same scoreline against Dereham Town. The Welsh representatives Colwyn Bay also won through against the other Harrogate team, Railway Athletic (3-2). Other home victories went to Chorley (1-0 over Glossop NE), Leamington  4-1 winners over Wroxham. and Gainsborough Trinity also 4-1 winners against one of the phoenix clubs Farsley AFC.

Which just leaves us to mention the teams who will be kicking their heels in a fortnight's time. The first involved another phoenix club, Ilkeston, who scored the ony goal of the game in their home tie with Solihull Moors. Oxford City found at trip to Shortwood United too much for them losing 1-2. Hednesford Town had a close game at King's Lynn Town  but the home side came out on top 1-0. Another single defeat was suffered by Keith Briggs' Stalybridge Celtic side after a long trip to Shildon in County Durham.

As for home losers Barrow probably qualified as the slain giants of the day by going down 1-0 to 17th placed North West Counties Premier side Runcorn Town. Finally there were plenty of goals at Hyde, just like last week, but this time Hyde were caught out as visitors Marine won the game 5-4.

Additional Gallery:

The Smiles were warm...the pasty...excellent !

Sharp  and shadow....

Sharp and several shadows....


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