Horbury are based in a town South West of Wakefield and vie for local bragging rights with Wakefield AFC who play at Featherstone North of Wakefield. Horbury joined the Northern Counties East League with Wakefield this year. Whereas Wakefield play in a super stadium Horbury are just developing theirs.
As soon as I came off the M1 the drizzle turned to constant heavy rain but I had read that the game would be definitely on with no pitch inspection needed. I found the ground after not believing Google maps directions to turn right down what seemed a dark drive to a house and driving round again. I recently heard Ben Elton say “I was smarter then my smart phone twenty years ago”, how did I manage to find a football ground back then, but I did!
There was ample parking near the ground and in the overflow car park where I parked and walked down to the ground past an all weather pitch being used for a hokey match and could see that there were other pitches in the distance. Luckily the rain had stopped and you could see that this was a work in progress. A large enclosed field had fencing around the pitch with floodlights added this year to play at this higher level. On going work is in progress to provide paving around the pitch, a small building housed ‘The Reds Café’, no chips here, and a small seated stand was big enough to just meet ground grading for this League. An amazing crowd of 161 had turned up to see the game that was played on a slightly sloping side to side pitch that could have been flatter.
You must congratulate the Officials here considering that they were only formed in 2005 and climbed three Divisions of the West Yorkshire Association League before winning the Premier Division last year and promotion to the Northern Counties East League Division 1. Their achievements are immense
Harrogate Railway Athletic was started and funded in 1935 by the workers at the local Starbeck LNER Depot which survived until closure in 1959. They continued to rise to the Yorkshire League in the 1960’s but fell back to local Leagues by 1973 but by 1982 had bounced back to become inaugural members of the NE Counties League and progressed to be promoted to the northern Premier League Division 1. Their ten year run at this higher level came to an end and retuned to the NECL and were relegated 2 years later to find themselves in Division 1. They have twice reached the second round of the F.A. Cup in 2002/03 and 2007/08 seasons a feat not achieved by many Non-League clubs.
Horbury Town 2 Harrogate Railway Athletic 2
Wednesday 3rd November 2022 19.45 pm kick off.
Northern Counties East League Division 1
Venue: The Slazenger Sports Complex
The Reds v The Railway
Horbury Red Shirts, black shorts : Harrogate Railway White Shirts Red Shorts
Harrogate played down the slight slope with the wind at their backs in the first half and should have made their attacking superiority count when on 15 minutes a save by the home keeper and two clearances off the line. How the ball didn’t go in was a mystery.
As the half came to an end a high ball swung in from the right was parried by the Hornby goal keeper Elliot Lightowler and Oliver Norman nipped in to tap home. The lead though was short lived with Horbury immediately pressing from the restart and they were awarded a free kick on the right. The free kick was curled into the far post and Craig Laight rose to head home to draw level. The referee blew for half time before the teams could restart.
As if on cue the rain started and the wind strengthened and people scurried to hide under the small covered area or in the café. Some unbelievably just toughed it out. The gusty wind rattled the top of the stand and we all looked at each other wondering whether we had made the right decision to huddle there.
The rain and wind just kept coming as the game restarted and the teams battled on against the elements as much as against each other. Huddled together in the only covered area it was hard to keep up with play but eventually 70 minutes into the game the storm stopped as suddenly as it had started.
Back watching it on the railings Horbury were pressing and on 75 minutes the Harrogate keeper took out the advancing Abu Bojang but the referee played on as the ball squirmed out from under their bodies to be taken up by Benjamin Agu who ran on towards goal and just squeezed it into the net between the post and a defender.
Surely Horbury would hold out for the last 15 minutes but this was not to be as with a few minutes left a corner for Harrogate on the right was nodded in at the far post for a 2.2 draw.
Breathless stuff considering the conditions and a score that was fair to each side. It will be great to return in a few years time to see how they have progressed with the ground and who knows Horbury may have moved up anoter level.