Harrogate is the spa town supreme of North Yorkshire and has attracted visitors to gulp its sulphur waters at The Pump Room and elsewhere since the 16th Century. It has attracted Czar Nicholas ll, Charles Dickens and more, and the town was the hiding place of Agatha Christie when she disappeared from public for a while.
The upmarket designer stores and restaurants were heaving with customers with lines wound around Betty's Team Rooms with the Downton Abbey types in their fancy hats, Harris Tweed jackets and brogues. Next summer Le Grand Depart of Le Tour will start in Leeds and finish here. Harrogate Spring Water is sold world wide, and its public gardens and open spaces such as the 200 acres The Stray are a delight.
I took the short bus ride to the Wetherby Road Stadium of Harrogate Town AFC who were hosting cross Pennine rivals Altrincham FC on a cold, brisk Saturday afternoon. www.harrogatetownafc.com There was a pleasant suprise when I walked into the NINETEEN NINETEEN VENUE near the corner flag. The pleasant bar and meeting rooms had a sign offering a warm welcome to fan club members of both clubs. I first went to the squeaky clean bathroom with its 4 ply toilet rolls and even a choice of fancy liquid soaps. I chose the peaches & cream.
There was a table heaving with complementary plates of various sandwiches and mini sausage rolls and nuts and potato chips, and I treated myself to a pint of draft Gaymers Cider at the bar and sat down to chat with my old mate Brian Flynn, the Alty media guru, who had just arrived on the fan club coach.
Town have a prosperous board of directors, lead by Irving Weaver, whose son Simon is the team manager. I had read about difficulties in recent seasons with the playing surface, but today it was green and a perfect surface to play The Beautiful Game. The neat stadium, named CNG Stadium for sponsorship purposes was hosting this SKRILL NORTH league contest in front of around 600 fans.
Alty were third in the table with the hosts ninth, and as I took my place in the main stand with The Radio Robins bunch and another suprise. Lucy Laryea an Alty fan became their first ever lady commentator and did a great job. I was not prepared for such dynamic play straight from the kick-off, after a minutes applause to honour the life of Nelson Mandela. By the 13th minute the amber and black stripped hosts were 2-0 up and then it was 3-0 and the visitors shell shocked.
Top scorer Damian Reeves almost opened the scoring in the 7th minute but two minutes later Town were ahead after a through ball from Michael Woods to Ashley Worsford who shot passed Stuart Coburn. Four minutes later Woods scored with a rocket from 20 yards out and added to his total in the 22nd minute.
Seven years ago as a 16 year old Woods was a Leeds United youth prospect and was spirited away by Chelsea along Tom Taiwo.. The Blues paid dearly for their actions and the F.A. forced them to sign a £5 million check to the Elland Road club. He has played in the FIFA Youth u 17 World Cup finals for England in 2007 in South Korea, and in 2009 with the U20s in Egypt, but failed to make the grade at the highest level. However, in the 6th tier he is a stand out star.
Alty fought back and won numerous corners and in the 28th minute reduced the deficit through Scott Leather from a Williamson corner. After the half it looked as if honours might be shared as Kyle Perry scored in the 70th minute from a Doughty cross, and there were five corners in a row, but Town held out for three points.
This friendly club wre dishing out coupons for their next home match on 14th v Gloucester City, with free entry for children and just £1 for adults, hoping for a bumper pre Christmas crowd. They deserve it.