Monday, 20 November 2017

Hunting For Hampsthwaite

Hampsthwaite United  4  Kirkby Malzeard  0

Harrogate & District Whitworth Cup

Sometimes you see the name of a football club and your first thought is “where?”

Following the West Yorkshire League’s pre-season growth strategy of ‘attracting’ three teams from the Harrogate & District League, namely Kirk Deighton Rangers, Knaresborough Celtic and indeed Hampsthwaite United, it was the latter one that caused the curiosity.

I knew where Knaresborough was and had a pretty good handle on Kirk Deighton, but Hampsthwaite? Not a clue.

Google Maps is a wonderful thing, unless you make a living out of producing road atlases, so after a little bit of research I’d found a tiny village to the North West of Harrogate, and judging by the amount of green on the satellite view, my gut feel was that this was going to be a pretty scenic area. I mean, when your neighbouring village is called Kettlesing Bottom, what’s not to admire?

It wasn’t going to be the quickest journey in the World, in fact the thought of it rejuvenated memories of the time I went to Oxenhope Recreation and despite it being on the outskirts of Keighley, it felt like I needed to take three changes of clothes, a tent and some Kendal Mint Cake to survive!

St John Fisher Backdrop
The League Handbook hit the website and that was when it threw a slight curveball. St John Fisher Catholic High School 3G, in Harrogate. I will admit my heart sank a little, but at the same time it did throw up a couple of positives, a 3G meant games would be on when others weren’t, and furthermore, I could do it by train and have a little drinkiepoos!

It was all planned for early September, but it was thwarted at the last minute when my mate Mark delivered the crushing blow of the all UK rail pass, gratis. I had a choice, Harrogate on the train for free, or a double at Maidenhead and Slough, also free? Sorry Hampsthwaite, you lost on that occasion, but if you skip back on my blog and search out Golden Ticket (Parts 1 & 2) you’ll see I had a very splendid time with lashings of all things good in the World.

Matters have complicated further over the past couple of months, I began to notice from the clubs Twitter feed that games were being moved to Harrogate Town’s ground, so I had to do a bit of homework by contacting the club. They were very helpful, the two clubs have a close relationship and indeed share the same sponsor, so they have an arrangement whereby if Town are away, they can use the ground if they wish.

It's A Cage - They All Are Nowadays
Town were at home to Boston United today, so the game couldn’t be moved, it was time to head to Harrogate, but by car. You see, I’ve got a week watching football and drinking in Holland and Germany looming, so to have gone out on the lash today would not have done domestic relations any good whatsoever. Mind you, when I get back I’ve got a cheeky little trip to Nottingham on the public transport radar!

I’ve not been to Harrogate for years, I think the last time was when I was reporting for the Derby Telegraph and went to cover a game against Belper Town. I can remember being caught out because at the point where I was supposed to be ringing the teams through to the Green Un copytakers, I was still in the bar finishing my pint, it wasn’t received well at Northcliffe House when I asked for a couple of minutes to down my lager!

It was the same season that Harrogate Town won the UniBond First Division and I got a request from Radio Leeds to cover their game at Belper, and that was an interesting night as it was the game that clinched them promotion. Having to report from the point of view of the opposition was not an easy job, but an experience all the same, I lost count of the number of Leeds United references I managed to get in!

But It's A Nice Cage - In A Lovely Location!
I’d forgotten just how bad the traffic is getting into Harrogate. Technology took me via the edges of Knaresborough, past Celtic’s ground and across the chaotic Wetherby Road, where solace was sought at the Woodlands pub which sat on the junction of Wetherby Road and Hookstone Drive.

St John Fisher School sits on Hookstone Drive which is a long East / West artery on the South side of the town, and if you did want to travel by train then Hornbeam Park is only a few minutes away. I’m not sure how frequent the service is, but I’m pretty sure there’ll be at least one a day to satisfy anyone of that volition.

The school itself is a mixture of the old and the new, but the old part is the most impressive, providing a backdrop to the sports pitches to the rear. I arrived a bit earlier than planned due to some confusion over the kick off time. I’d had a text from the helpful club secretary the night before suggesting it was 2pm, but the away side tweeted that morning to say it was 1.30pm.

It turned out to be 1.30pm, but I spoke to the referee who couldn’t understand why? The game would go straight to penalties anyway so light wouldn’t be an issue, plus, the floodlights were on, so light was never going to be a problem anyway? Anyway, mine is not to question why…..

Even When It's Cloudy - It's Still Nice
The hosts beat lower ranked Kirkby Malzeard 4-0, although the visitors from North of Ripon put up a decent showing. It was the quality of the Hampsthwaite finishing that made all the difference, in front of goal they were pretty clinical, especially when they started to take their manager’s advice and get the ball into wide areas.

Hampsthwaite’s league form has been a little indifferent so far, so it’s hard to judge them, but on the day they were comfortable victors. I understand though that the club are ambitious and want to progress through the leagues, and I’m sure they have a plan as to how they are going to achieve that.

Whether that plan involves staying in Harrogate, or a return to Hampsthwaite, I can’t answer. I do hope it’s a return to their home, the tent will be ready for an airing by next August!  

Struggling For Inspiration Now

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