top of page

Match report: Beverley Town 3 - 4 Harrogate Railway Athletic

Two sides started this match at Norwood with unbeaten league records in the NCEL Division One, but only one of them ended it as such. And the fact that it was Harrogate that did so, is something that I’m not sure anyone in the bumper crowd of 382 could quite fathom. As far as examples of shooting yourself in the foot go, this was right up there from Beverley, who will still be scratching their heads as to how they could have lost a match that they dominated, and how the opposition could score four times when I’m not sure they even had that number of shots on target. It’s very early in the season, but had Beverley held on to leads against Dronfield and Harrogate in their last two fixtures, then they’d be sitting proudly at the top of the standings. As it is, they’ll hopefully learn the harsh lessons that a defeat like this can teach, and get back to winning ways asap.

There was little to choose between the sides in the opening 10 minutes, with the Beavers welcoming back several of the players who had missed the trip to Dronfield, with Tom Nicholson, Will Taylor, Nathan Ofori and Kai Larkin maintaining their records of starting every league match so far this season. The deadlock was broken after 10 minutes when Josh Batty made a sweet connection with a cross into the box, leaving the keeper with no chance and getting himself off the mark with his first Beverley goal since joining from Brigg Town in the summer. This gave the Beavers the ascendancy and they started to dominate their youthful opponents, with a second following 10 minutes later in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Connor Harman won the ball in the centre of the pitch, drove forward and shot speculatively from long range, but his scuffed effort trickled along the ground, with Scott Phillips getting the faintest of touches to steer the ball past the unsighted keeper. 2-0 up, cruising and no signs of the drama to come…

One of the turning points, if not the most important of them all, came with 32 minutes on the clock, and it was a veritable ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, as Olly Baldwin lashed a shot against the post with the keeper beaten and a 3-0 lead millimetres away. From the resulting goal kick, Harrogate played it long, found a gap for striker Luca Bolino to run into, and he coolly slotted home to give his side a foothold in the match. And for the rest of the half it was all Harrogate. Beverley started to sit deeper and invite the opposition onto them, seemingly unnerved by conceding. Seven minutes later and it was all square, as a ball into the box from the right caused confusion between Taylor and Nicholson, with the right back heading into his own net as time seemingly stood still.

At 2-2, the half-time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for Beverley, giving them the chance to regroup, but even then nobody could have predicted that they’d be back in the lead within 15 seconds of the restart. Least of all me, as I was still inside ordering a cuppa and a pint as the game restarted. Beverley kicked off, but Harrogate regained possession, only for a short back pass to be seized upon by the wily Phillips, who made no mistake to clot home his third goal of the season. This seemed to settle the hosts, but they never quite gave the impression of having a dominant grip on the game, never finishing Harrogate off and just lacking the killer instinct to put the result beyond doubt. And how that came back to haunt them. There were few chances for much of the half and the referee was a bit too pedantic for my liking, cautioning four players from each side and not quite showing the common-sense attitude that I’ve seen from so many excellent referees at this level. The number of stoppages was also to play a decisive factor given the curious decision to add on eight minutes of injury time that I doubt anyone could have expected.

Both sides almost emptied their respective benches and the changes disrupted most of the flow that had been apparent in the first half, with Joe McFadyen, Ben Hinchliffe, Grant Tait and Chris Adams coming on for Beverley, who for all the world appeared to be holding out relatively comfortably for the win. And then it all went horribly wrong.

Harrogate equalised in stoppage time when Nicholson failed to gather a corner, leading to the simplest of tap-ins and then, well past the point that anyone thought we should still be playing, the visitors were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out. Effort one was belted hard into the wall, but effort two was belted a little less hard and seemed destined to end up in the crowd, before taking a deflection off the wall and nestling into the bottom corner of the Beverley goal. Cue wild celebrations from Harrogate, as you would, and utter disbelief from the Beverley players and supporters. To the surprise of nobody, the game was over the second it was restarted, and that was that. Seldom have I seen a match like it.

Fair play to Harrogate, they’re a decent team and showed fantastic spirit to hang on to Beverley’s coat-tails when their heads could have gone down, but they were handed the win rather than seizing it for themselves. And so it’s the side from North Yorkshire that sit top of the table after five matches, with the Beavers heading to Yorkshire Amateur on Saturday hoping to get back on the horse they fell off quite spectacularly on Tuesday evening.



bottom of page