Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harrogate Town 2
Alfreton 2

Last weekend saw me at Wembley for England v Kazakstan. This weekend saw me at a very different venue, namely Weatherby Road to see Harrogate Town v Alfreton in the Blue Square North. I don't think it is possible to get two more contrasting games or venues, but I have to confess that it is the latter that I found altogether more enjoyable.

So what took me to sunny Harrogate in the first place? Well it is where Mrs Akela's parents live and we were there for the weekend. Mrs Akela was planning on going shopping with her sister Saturday afternoon. I had a choice between joining them (no thanks, I hate shopping) or going to see Harrogate Town, Harrogate Railway or York City. Town got the nod in the end, based purely on proximity to the house, so off I went.

Weatherby Road is quite typical of grounds at this level, a couple of entrances, a small club house, quite smart looking seated stand along one side and some shallow terracing (mostly uncovered) around the rest of the pitch. All with the bonus of being able to walk right the way around and swap ends at half time (albeit an extra £1 to go in the seats on top of the £10 general admission).

I took my position just near the dug outs (always great fun to here what the gaffers are shouting!) and the game kicked off. Don't ask me for players names, I didn't read the (really quite good) programme that closely to pick them up. It quickly became apparent that Alfreton were going to play the more attractive football however, as the league table indicates, Town had by far the more aggressive winning attitude. In particular they had a useful combination up front who caused more and more problems as the game progressed. Town though at times looked too dependent on them and looked to lack the width that Alfreton had as they consistently got it out to the wings with some neat passing. Instead Town were rather dependent on their full backs for crosses.

The first half finished goalless and I slipped into the club house for a swift pint. Good friendly service and they even managed to make John Smiths taste of something! I can heartily recommend the place!

The second half restarted and this time I went behind the bottom goal and so was at the wrong end to see the first goal. And it was no surprise that it was a case of Alfreton picking up on some sloppy play on their left, breaking down the wing before putting in a cross that the Town keeper flapped at causing all kinds of problems, eventually the ball being headed home.

Town though stepped up a gear and the two strikers began to run at the defence, particularly the little no.10 who looks quite useful. The Alfreton defence didn't like it and eventually an equalizer came, a defender under pressure from the big no.9 played a back pass that the keeper made an utter hash of dealing with resulting in an hilarious own goal for an equalizer. And the goal that took town into the lead was equally down to Alfreton failing to deal with being run at. The big no.9 burst into the box and was felled by a terrible tackle. The penalty was dispatched and it looked like town were on for their 6th consecutive home win.

They were undone though in the closing minutes by some sloppy defending at a corner and the game finished with an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Lets face facts, this was not the best standard of football in the world, however don't be fooled into thinking that football at this level is all about long balls. There is great entertainment to be had in a friendly environment where you can feel part of the community. Where football is about football and not about big business and Rupert Murdoch.

I had a superb time at Weatherby Road on Saturday and anyone who simply loves football for the sake of football should get themselves down to their nearest non league ground and give it a try. You may just surprise yourself.

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