Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hall Rd Rangers 0 Knaresborough Town 6

Northern Counties East League, Division One
Attendance: 38 (my lowest ever)

Hall Road Rangers play in the village of Dunswell on the northern fringe of Hull. Getting there looks to be a synch: first turn right on the ‘A’ road off the main York-Hull road. Ah: that turn is signed to just Ciao, an Italian restaurant. I drive by again and it appears to be a choice between that and a farm. I ask at a petrol station. “Dene Park?” the cashier asks. “Yes!”. “Oh, you need the sign for Ciao”. (I haven’t had such trouble finding a ground since Parkgate.)

I edge down a track to reach a playing field on the far side of which is, indeed, a restaurant next to a football ground with shared, full car park. Hard to tell whether it’s with diners taking advantage of a half-price pizza offer or something or football fans. (Bet I know where Hall Road are going for their Christmas do). After all, this is hardly a big match. In fact, it’s a throughly run of the mill fixture that appeals to me mainly as a way of getting out of the house on a very soggy, grey day (slide tackle weather, I call it) and only just worth going to because my local lads, Knaresborough Town are visiting.

There are an no turnstiles here; a jovial fella at the gap into the ground simply relieves me of a fiver. I turn right and into the grandstand. A stand of any sort is something of a bonus at step 6 of the non-league pyramid and this is a substantial one, consisting of four tiers of bench seating populated by a hardy knot of about 10 Rangers supporters. All that’s missing a ‘Hall Road Rangers’ on the fascia.

Positioned behind one of the goals, the grandstand reminds me of Whickham. Beside it is another seated stand. There are also two small shelters and, curiously, two pairs of dugouts either side of the pitch. Elm trees behind the wonky rail at the far end (see lead pic) outnumber spectators and there is the customary escape hatch in the perimeter fence and one or two unofficial ones besides. All in all, a pretty impressive set-up for this level of the pyramid.

Knaresborough take the lead on five minutes when a shot is parried and then woofed in by an on-rushing striker. They then proceed to dominate the match, showing far greater speed and composure, and go in two up at half-time.

During the interval an almost ghostly voice announces the result of the raffle. It’s the only time the PA is used unless something was said before 2.54pm when I arrived. The generator that presumably powers the floodlights starts up, droning like the engine of a ship. The semi-rural location also means that the club isn’t connected to the main drains but uses a cesspit. As Knaresborough emerge the lads joke about the home subs taking pot shots at manager Brian Davey as he moves across the penalty area nursing a mug of tea. Hall Road are somewhat tardy in returning to the pitch, the result, no doubt, of a substantial dressing room dressing down. Sadly for them, things aren’t going to get any better.

Knaresborough continue to dominate with ex-Man U and Leeds junior Colin Heath completing his hat-trick. “The cheeky buggers have had a shot on goal!” remarks our Brian after a rare foray forward by Hall Road. A bloke in the rival dug-out isn’t quite so lightly flippant in his summation of the lino’s performance. “You’re a cocky, arrogant c***,” he snarls. God, I’d hate be a lino, as I’ve said many times before.

When Knaresborough go five up with 13 mins to go I suddenly begin to wonder if we could be heading for eight or nine. Another goal goes in right at the end and Town squander two injury time chances but can hardly be disappointed with the final result. They’ve now won seven out of 11 away matches this season compared to two out of ten at home and have scored twice as many goals on their travels. This victory was also their second biggest league win since ascending to the NCEL in 2012. Arrivedercis don’t come sweeter than that.

Programme notes: Hall Road’s next home match is billed as Knaresborough on Dec 27. Um, err ... think that’s an error.

Some action: Here is four minutes of random action sadly not including any goals but it gives you a feel for the place as darkness descended.


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