Station View, Harrogate. 14/4/17.

Northern Counties East League, Premier Division. Easter Groundhop 2017.

Fish, chips and gravy dispatched and off up for the second game on this Good Friday. We were hoping for a much better affair after the drab, end of season non event at Garforth earlier in the day. The Easter Groundhop is a fantastic idea and a great way of getting bodies through the gate for these clubs but there isn’t a great deal to play for in the Premier Division and a few of the chosen games are between teams whose season had finished a while ago.

Today’s visitors to Station View were Pickering who really should still have something to play for, the hot topic of debate at the moment is the (lack of) promotion places at Step 5. The Pikes are flying in second place and look to have beaten Curtis Woodhouse’s Bridlington to this position. They have an outside (very outside) chance of topping the table due to Cleethorpe’s brilliant FA Vase campaign where they will play on the hallowed turf at Wembley Stadium. Clee have a mountain of games still to play and are still a few points clear of Town. It must be difficult to take, registering a high 90s points total and not winning the league.

It was a triple whammy for me, a new ground and two teams that I had not had the pleasure of viewing this season. While the Pikes are flying, Railway are struggling. They have probably done just enough to secure their Premier Division Status, the teams below – Armthorpe, Barton, Parkgate and Retford have done their best to get relegated this season and despite an upturn in fortune for a couple of clubs, it is going to be three out of the four that will be starting life in Division One come August.

Railway aren’t in the best of health financially, players are doing their stuff for nowt and the ground has areas that could do with a bit of TLC. The ground could be sold off to developers to ensure the clubs existence, as a members club the decision was unanimous back in January to sell all or part of the land in order to safeguard the future of the club, according to the linked article, half the land could be worth £3million while selling the whole lot could be worth double. It really is a shame to see clubs in this position, especially with the ridiculous amounts of money sloshing around at the upper echelons of the league and Europe.

The club had a couple of excellent runs in the FA Cup a decade ago, reaching the Second Round Proper back in 2002/03, eventually losing at home to Bristol City in front of 3500 fanatics, the club had to hastily erect temporary terracing in order to achieve their 90 minutes of fame as the magic of the cup pitted the lowest ranked club against the highest in the round. A spirited performance saw Railway go down 3-1. They matched the feat in 2008, this time a a Northern Premier club. A 3-2 defeat to Mansfield ended the run and the club has been on the decline since. Not even the prize money from two unbelievable runs can keep the books balanced and so difficult decisions will need to be made by the chairman and members in order for the fanatics to still have a club to watch on a Saturday afternoon. Hopefully the swelled gate that the Groundhop brought will go someway to putting some much needed cash into the club.

I love this ground as well, the huge modern clubhouse that towers over the ground on entry, juxtaposed with the beautiful iron gates that bear the name of this club. Behind the goal at the far end is a covered terrace whose roof slopes almost as much as the playing surface, behind the dugouts is a small seated terrace. Two ‘Dogs of Non League’ sit patiently waiting for their owners to order pies or chips while the vendors are out again with their memorabilia. We stop at the pin badge stand, the guy has every club on display, well nearly every club as the mighty Frickley Athletic are notably absent. Ken is suckered into buying a Biggleswade badge and proudly displays it on his fleece.

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The match played out very much to form, it was hard viewing for the home fanatics as an early red card for Michael Morris reduced the Locomotives to ten. Morris handled on the line, denying a clear goal for Ged Dalton. Lewis Taylor stepped up and opened the scoring.

On 34 Nick Thompson scored a free header after a delightful cross from Russ Parker from the right. The Pikes were showing their attacking prowess, another effort from Dalton went just over then Eddie Birch made it three. In all honesty, I missed the goal as I was too busy ordering my half time pie.

The second half was a continuation, Blott’s header was followed in by George Bissett for the fourth and Blott got in on the goal scoring action on 60 as he neatly finished past Railway keeper James Webster. It could have been more but it finished 0-5, special mention to Lewis Taylor who absolutely ran the show from midfield, I’m not one to talk about hair but his is pretty shocking, his skill, vision and deft touch more tan makes up for it though, his performance really stood out – I would like to see him against stronger opposition as I’m sure he could play at a higher level. Thompson was also commanding in midfield, if the team is kept together, this Pickering outfit could be serious contenders for promotion next season.

On to Knaresbrough, the next game does have a lot riding on it as Pontefract are in a three-way battle for promotion. Can’t wait.

 

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