Harrogate Railway 2 Garforth 2
Joe Colley and an own goal provided Town’s first goals in three outings, but they were pegged back twice by a determined Harrogate Railway side.
With five ex-Town players in Rail’s first eleven, this always looked a stiffer test than league positions might suggest, and they will be disappointed not to have put themselves out of sight in the first fifteen minutes. In the second minute, Toby Wells kept out Adam Turner’s header from Aaron Kitao’s cross, then was there again on nine mins to save again at close range when the same two players combined once more. Two minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty when Kitao was brought down in the box by Michael Thompson, himself signed from Railway earlier this season. Ex-Town striker Sean Hunter stepped up, but Wells guessed the right way and pushed the ball round the post.
A big let-off for The Miners, but it finally gave us a much-needed shot in the arm. Some good play on 17 mins ended in Devonte Morton picking out Mark Simpson free in the box, but without evading the offside flag. Four minutes later Simpson provided our first attempt, heading over the bar from Billy Lumsden’s curling free-kick. Another good move moments later saw “Simmo” try to pick his way through a crowded box but couldn’t find space to get a shot away and a defender cleared.
Kitao’s pace was soon causing us problems again on the right wing however, and he forced Wells into saving with his feet when through on goal. The Miners made Rail pay for their missed chances on 36 mins however when we took the lead. Great work from Aiden Kearsley saw him pick out Simpson in the box, who’s turn and shot was cleared straight to Joe Colley who found the net with an well-taken volley. A second goal of the season for the young midfielder who celebrates his 18th birthday on Wednesday.
Only two minutes after the break the home side were level, Turner getting on the end of Hunter’s delivery to score against his old club.
On 54 mins manager Rob Hunter made a double substitute, new signings Mitch Hamilton and Dan Williams replacing Morton and Helmo Silva.
On 58 mins Kearsley was on the end of a rash challenge from Turner who’d already been booked earlier in the half, prompting referee Akeel Ahmed to send him for an early bath. Returnee Hamilton picked up where he left off two minutes later with a jinking run in from the left, but his shot was well off-target. Town’s attacking play has been ponderous at times recently, but him and fellow sub Williams injected some much needed pace and invention. Garforth went back in front on 62 mins and it was Williams with the assist, making a strong run down the left and delivering into the six-yard box for former Town assistant Simon Swailes to selflessly head into his own net.
Despite being a goal and a man up, Town never really looked like getting control of the game and there was another penalty for Rail only seconds later when Kearsley was adjudged to have upended Kitao. Sam Barker this time was the man to take it, but he too was left with his head in his hands after Wells dived low to keep his well-struck kick out of the bottom corner. Our keeper’s towering performances just go on.
Substitute Fraser Lancaster came close on 68 mins when he latched onto a half clearance just outside the box and fired just over the bar. Lumsden made a crucial block to keep out Kitao's cross-shot on 72 mins before we suffered a blow when influential captain James Beaston was forced off injured. On 80 mins Rail were level again when Barker found Lancaster at the back post to steer the ball home. In an end-to-end finish, sub Josh Underwood got on the end of a free kick delivered in to the box, but his downward header was easily claimed, then in injury time Williams for Town fired wide from just outside the box when supplied by Simpson.
Our neighbours arguably had had the better chances, but in the end both sides lacked the quality in front of goal that could have earned them much-needed points. A result which does at least stop Town’s rot of five straight defeats, but room for improvement if we’re to start climbing the table. We’re on the road again next Saturday when we visit Barton Town (kick-off 3pm).