Topic: Harrogate Town at home.....
FT: 1-1 Att: 1696 (235 away)
"A myth has grown up that football should in some way strive to be entertaining. Sport is not entertainment. It's an activity for the benefit of the participants"
Of all of Sgt Wilko's quotes, this is probably the one most people will remember (he probably wants to forget the one about Zidane, sumo wrestling and running like a crab).
It was at forefront of my mind as we slowly froze in the East Stand at The Shay today. Judging by the way they played, it was the same for Town's players.
Even the most myopic Town devotee would have struggled to find any evidence of their team striving to entertain on the pitch. But the participants certainly got some benefit. The point they stole in the 90th minute from a stuttering Harrogate Town side that should have been four or five up by halftime.
A fairly decent crowd (these things are relative remember, there were over 2300 at their place) and four decent points over Christmas meant there was a modicum of optimism. Isn't there always? Town had beaten them on Boxing Day. Surely they could repeat the feat at home?
Town were nearly one down after about five seconds.
And were one down after about five minutes.
A cross that sailed into the far corner of the net would be a soft goal to concede at the best of times. But with Town seemingly unable to retain possession beyond one or two touches and Harrogate passing neatly with Falkingham at the hub of everything, the boos were soon ringing round the stands. I hadn’t appreciated just how small the ex-Leeds player is. Maybe it was the perspective from the tiny stand at Harrogate, but he looked like a ball boy who’d nipped on for a game at times today. Maybe his diminutive frame meant Town’s midfield simply couldn’t see him or maybe it was Town’s apparent lack of an actual midfield, but, whatever the reason, he found space all the time and distributed well throughout.
He and his teammates went down too easily for my liking but, to be fair to the ref, he wasn’t buying much of it. For anyone. Some pretty heavy challenges were waved away. Quite refreshing.
Had a quick look and the main Town forum is fairly split about today's game. Nobody’s suggesting it was a feast for the eyes but many are still arguing that Town were worth the point. I'm not one of them to be honest. They were frustratingly bad at times. Whether some of that is down to fatigue is anyone's guess, but there was a lack of ideas for the first hour at least. A point is a great result. You have to play badly and still get something if you want to win things. Or simply survive. But, in terms of spectacle, there’s a long way to go.
Hannah's 'enjoyment' wasn't helped by the fact she didn't wear a coat. It was unseasonably mild when we left the house. And utterly freezing by the end of the game. Fortunately, our rucksack of tricks comes complete with a blanket (one of those red tartan jobs you’d find on the rear parcel shelf of a Vauxhall Viva in the 70s). It provided some relief from the cold but both of us were still shivering on the walk back to the car. Even the obligatory chips couldn’t thaw the chill.
Harrogate brought a decent following. They also brought a seemingly endless repertoire of songs. Glad All Over, Twist and Shout. We were treated to them all. Literally. It was as if they'd found a top 100 ‘footy songs’ list on the net and decided to shoehorn the words Town and Harrogate into every one of them. For all of the noise they made, they did still come across as a bit 'Roger Nouveau Football Fan'.
When Sellers’ free kick sailed into the side netting and not the goal, it fooled most of the East Stand. Harrogate’s fans took great delight in taunting them for the next few minutes. Hannah clearly hadn’t forgotten that slight when Edwards scored in the last minute of regulation time. After a few seconds of jumping around, it didn’t take long for her to turn and face the away section…’not so loud now are they?’ She’s getting the hang of this football fan lark.
Edwards introduction was as the expense of the hard-working but, for today at least, ineffective Dayle Southwell. Once again, he clearly wasn’t impressed at being withdrawn. Hannah and I both spotted a fairly ‘robust’ exchange between him and the manager when he took his seat on the bench. Hannah also heard the equally ‘robust’ language the manager in particular used.
It’s good that players are frustrated and want to play. Fullarton needs to realise that Southwell can’t perform the role of two centre-forwards on his own. Preston was there to assist but never got going today. There's a fine line though and many who claim to have insider knowledge reckon Fullarton can be a bit too abrasive with the players.
Wilko was probably right about the whole ‘entertainment’ thing. The lack of contact in the ‘modern’ game and the histrionics and downright cheating it’s brought with it, were, in many respects, born of a desire to ‘entertain’. If clubs want to survive though, there needs to be some benefit for people to get them to part with £20 of their hard-earned cash. There are no billion-pound TV deals in non-league football. Not much in the way of corporate cash either.
The programme notes from today confirmed just how parlous the position can be. As great as it was for Town to reach the 2nd round of the FA Cup, when all of the necessary expenses were settled and the gate money split, they still made a loss despite £22k in prize money, the presence of BT’s cameras and a half-decent crowd. It’s clear the Board know how restless the natives are becoming. The same notes asked for patience and a recognition of financial reality. No rich benefactors here.
Not one to remember, but it could have been a lot worse.
Bottom of the table Braintree are the visitors on Saturday. Anything short of a convincing win and I reckon Hannah’s language will be pretty ‘robust’ too….