Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hyde FC 1 Harrogate Town 1

FA Cup, fourth qualifying round
Attendance: 395

There’s nothing like a little local interest to spice up an FA Cup trail. Two years ago I found myself swept along (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration) by the York Cup bandwagon for three rounds. Show me a team from North Yorkshire I’ll happily wave a scarf for them which is how I came to purchase some black and yellow neckwear and head over the Pennines for today’s visit by Harrogate Town to Hyde. Despite being a division lower than their hosts Harrogate went into the tie brimming with confidence after panning Conference North leaders, Brackley, 6-1 the previous Saturday. Hyde, bottom of the Conference National in their maiden season at that level, had other matters on their mind.
Two rounds on from West Auckland and just one from the big time and still the mood was distinctly low key as I arrived at Ewen Fields. In terms of excitement, this FA Cup trial is going in reverse. I got the impression that Hyde are rather like Harrogate: a club that struggles to drum up much support not helped by being in the shadow on much bigger clubs – although Man City and United are a considerably bigger and more local alternative attraction than Leeds. If Harrogate were to get promotion then I suspect their experience of the Conference National would be similar to Hyde’s in more ways than one.
The lowest home gate of the season and the second lowest of the round watched what looked and definitely sounded like a reserve match – which was fitting in a way since the ground is where Man City’s second string play. Logos for Etihad and ‘City in the Community’ adorn the roof of one stand. The City badge is even displayed proudly on one of the two sort of camel humps on the grandstand on which two floodlight pylons are mounted, a very striking feature in what is otherwise a plain, albeit it, very trim venue. A fancy pop-up in-turf sprinkler system, a City-funded investment one imagines, seems a little extravagent in Manchester but was, nevertheless, in action before kick-off. Refreshingly, the tea hut is still a shipping container.

Hyde took an early lead with a penalty (above) and thereafter the game entered a long stalemate. The sides have met at the same level on 16 occasions in the last decade and the evenness of the contest reflected that statistic. Chilaka had Harrogate’s only clear chance on the stroke of half-time. The second half was a similar story. As the game entered it’s final quarter the tie flickered into life and I took up my position among the few Harrogate fans behind the away dugout. They were predominantly docile, greying middle class blokes so I immediately felt at home. In fact, I haven’t enjoyed egging on an unfashionable, low profile club so much since watching Reading in the seventies and eighties. I felt like I was sympathetically siding with the kid without any friends. There’s a lot to be said for the allure of the under achiever especially when achievement appears on the horizon.

With 10 mins to go Allan of Harrogate was waved onside when he looked clearly offside but then just blasted the ball straight at the keeper. Oh, well, that’s “our” chance gone, I thought. But, no. In the penultimate minute Allan atoned by heading a deep Harrogate corner goalwards. Osbourne got a flick on which was deemed to have crossed the line. The thoroughly deserved equivaliser caused pandemonium on the away terraces. Well, OK, quite a lot of clapping. And the prize for the winner of the replay? A visit to Torquay, a potential repeat of Harrogate’s last first round appearance in 2005 which ended in defeat after a replay. “We” don’t really do unfinished business and it’s prohibitively far way for the fans. Crap draw.

Star turn: Hyde’s president (not present today, I hasten to add) is HRH Sir Geoff Hurst. Surprisingly, given his London accent and strong association with West Ham, he was born in Ashton-under-Lyne and lived in Denton as a youngster. His father played for Hyde during the Second World War.

Programme notes: Hyde’s great claim to infamy is being on the wrong end of the biggest thrashing in FA Cup history: 0-26, against Preston in 1887. (Hyde’s matchday radio station calls itself An account of the game includes this quote from the Preston Guardian. Describing the Hyde goalie, who is reputed to have saved 76 shots and been winded three times, the correspondent writes: “Had he been a less able man there is no telling what the score may have been. Times innumerable he stopped shots and was repeatedly cheered right lustily.” By jove! Talking of retro football, here is a great BBC clip about how the football spectating experience has changed. Loved the first 1:08.

Another blogger’s view: As I arrived I spotted a chap from, getting a close-up pic of the teamsheet.

Craigwatch: The football coach at my son’s school, Craig MacGillivray, whom I mentioned in the West Auckland post, played today and did himself proud.

Life at the top table: Great simile by Barney Ronay writing in The Guardian about St George’s Park: “As a cure for English football’s ingrained ills the Snazzadrome brings to mind a fat man deciding to lose weight by buying himself a really expensive tracksuit”. I also liked a Tweet from a 5 Live listener who asked if, among all its swanky facilities, the Park had a “manners and self-control suite”. The FA? I agree with Ashley Cole on that one.

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