Knaresborough Town v Hall Road Rangers (definitely, not ‘Mall Road Rangers’!)
Manse Lane / North Counties East League Division One / 2nd May 2015
If there’s somewhere that’s going to decide the Apocalypse, I wouldn’t have put my money on the small Yorkshire town of Knaresborough. Apparently, that’s the case though…well, according to a 16th century witch. That witch was Mother Shipton, maybe Britain’s most famous prophetess who supposedly predicted the fates of several notable rulers, the Great Fire of London and the triumph over the Spanish Armada. The prophetess, who was raised in a cave in Knaresborough, which is still a famous tourist site today, predicted that the town’s famous bridge would fall 3 times and on the 3rd time it would be the catalyst for the end of the world as we know it. The bridge has fallen twice already, so watch out folks – the end is nigh!
Me and Tom were arriving into town via the train which goes over High Bridge and I was relieved to say that we made it over without it collapsing. It did make me weigh up whether the Apocalypse would be worthwhile today: on the one hand, it would definitely give me something pretty epic to write about on this blog about my day in Knaresborough; however, I think views on the blog may take a big hit thanks to all of the death and destruction. Perhaps it’s best that things stay how they are.
Anyway, enough of the doom-mongering, we had some non-league football to watch at Knaresborough Town and a town to explore – and what a town! Knaresborough is bloody beautiful and you won’t find many more picturesque small towns that this one in North Yorkshire. I had not even heard of the place until 10 days before, but a quick Google Image search of the word ‘Knaresborough’ revealed to me a joyous-looking town and I was in love straight away. For those wanting more of a geographical grasp of the place, you’ll find it located just 4 miles north of Harrogate – another charming Yorkshire town I visited back in October.
Gibbo had arrived about an hour before us and he had already embraced some of the culture of the town by visiting the castle perched on the hill above the town. He had then headed to Wetherspoons, so that was where we were heading. Not before me and Tom almost got ourselves ASBOs after being in the Yorkshire town for about 30 seconds. We were trying to find a bin to dispose of the bottles of Budweiser we had consumed on the train, but there was nowhere. I didn’t really want to walk through the town with bottles of beer in hand, so we placed them on the train station windowsill (I’m not usually a litterer by the way). BANG! We soon had a man painting within an empty room in the station itself banging the window and pointing at us aggressively. We picked the beers up and went in search of a bin elsewhere instead (something we probably should have done in the first place really).
We headed up the hill and into the small, market square where Knaresborough were hosting their own version of Live Aid, with the guitarist on stage dedicating his next song, Gunpowder Speaks Louder Than Words, to Guy Fawkes, who was apparently radicalised near the town.
There seemed to be pubs everywhere, much to my liking, but we just couldn’t find Wetherspoons; it seemed that the town was full of tourists too as no-one knew where it was. I even resorted to asking Blind Jack – the town’s most famous resident. Although he was a bit mute as a result of being a statue of Blind Jack and not the man himself. Blind Jack lived in the town in 18th century and was blind by age six after a smallpox infection. However, this did not deter Jack (real name John Metcalf) and he became a tour guide of the town, a fine musician and, most famously, a road builder. Impressive stuff Jack!
Eventually, we found Wetherspoons, quite aptly named the Crown Inn, as we watched the unfolding news of the birth of the new Princess. We found Gibbo within enjoying a Spoons breakfast and tea and obviously I went for my Spoons favourite of a pint of Tuborg. We mapped our day out and we were ready to explore the town properly.
Next stop was the Commercial Hotel across the road – a Samuel Smith’s pub. It was far more ‘traditional’ in here and we were easily the youngest of the clientele in there. Taddy Lager was bought at its usual ridiculous cheap price of £2.08; it was my round and in a running theme of the day, the cheap rounds seemed to keep falling my way. Gibbo had opted not to join us in rounds as apparently I’m a bad influence and he wouldn’t keep up. Tom though is a fellow Welshman, so no such issues.
We then veered back into the town centre and I resorted to my usual game of finding the roughest, crummiest looking pub and diverting us into there. “That place looks shit! Let’s go in there!” There were some slight protests from Gibbo, but he was outvoted. In we went.
To be honest, I was slightly let down as the bar (a Sports Bar actually) was actually fairly decent and tidy inside and not half as shabby as I thought. We had a quick drink in here, whilst watching Derby County collapse at home to Reading, before heading down the road and closer to the ground itself. On walking down the road, fellow groundhopper Paul Brockett seemed to magically appear and so he joined us in the walk and then in the Marquis of Granby Inn for an ale.
This place was more like a welcoming home than a pub with it feeling like we were drinking in someone’s living room, as we sipped away at some more Taddy Lager; once again, the cheap round had fallen my way. Anyway, it was now time to make the 10-15 minute walk down the road to Knaresborough Town’s Manse Lane home. Well, we started the walk anyway, but Paul had headed back for his car from the town centre and he caught up us before letting us hitch a ride in his Audi the rest of the way to the ground.
For some reason, Gibbo was determined not to know who Knaresborough were playing today – it was supposed to be a sort of surprise to himself. His Dad had told him that Knaresborough were playing our favourite Belgium team Club Brugge; this may sound like a ridiculous suggestion, but me and Gibbo have actually seen Club Brugge play Otelul Galati next to a golf course in Cheshire, so them turning up at Knaresborough Town wouldn’t surprise us as much as you’d think. Gibbo spotted a minibus with the name of today’s away team daubed across it: Hall Road Rangers – a name I never grasped, as I repeatedly called them Mall Road Rangers all day for some reason.
£4 handed over at the turnstile and we were into Manse Lane. ‘Humble’ is the word I’d use to describe the ground. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the home of nearby neighbours Harrogate Railway Athletic, although this ground is actually flat and not on a gradient like Station View. There are only two stands in the ground: one small, seating stand on the halfway line and the other, a small, sheltered standing area in the corner of the ground behind the goals.
The club were formed as Knaresborough FC in 1900 and played in the York Football League, even winning the league three years in a row between 1903-1905 with the last of those league titles being won with a 100% record. Their impressive record saw them enter the Northern League and take on teams such as Scarborough and York City. The club were back in the York Football League again after one year and either side of World War I the club were suspended twice following problems off the field.
The club returned in 1932 in their current Knaresborough Town guise and once again they had a sublime season by going a full season unbeaten. However, the outbreak of World War II saw the club fold again, before returning again as Knaresborough FC post war and it was during these years that the club moved to Manse Lane.
In the time since, the club have played in the West Yorkshire League and the Harrogate League, before joining the North Counties East League, where they ply their trade today.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the ground is the fairly modern clubhouse with a bar in one corner of it and food hatch in the other. I was starving so I headed straight for the food and walked away with a steak pie (with gravy advertised as ‘free of charge’). Textbook pie – no nonsense and did its job sublimely.
Paul went round chatting to some other groundhoppers he recognised, whilst I inspected the trophy cabinet adjacent to the bar. I had stated en route to Knaresborough that it looked like a proper ‘sunny weather town’ but that statement was coming back to haunt me as it started to lightly drizzle – something it did on/off for the whole 90 minutes.
I placed my beer in a plastic cup and it came outside to accompany me pitchside as the teams came out with Knaresborugh in red and black and Hall Road Rangers in purple. It looked a bit like a Europa League tie between Middlesbrough and Fiorentina.
It took a matter of minutes for Fiorentina…I mean Hall Road to take an early advantage. A ball into the box saw Hall Road’s striker take the ball past the keeper, before he was brought down by the no.1. The linesman was waving frantically to give the penalty and I had to agree, as I did with the referee’s decision to red card the goalie. We could hear the goalie’s anguished shouts as he arrived back early in the dressing rooms housed just behind us.
One of the greatest stories of my season’s travels was Matt Harrold going in goals for 60 off minutes at Crawley and playing a (admittedly very clumsy) blinder, so I was hoping for the same again when one of Knaresborough’s attackers ended up in goals. There would no heroics from the spot though, as he was sent the wrong way and Hall Road took a 1-0 lead.
Soon after it was 2-0 when a loose ball was picked on by the Hall Road attack and fired home confidently past the unorthodox Knaresborough keeper. 2-0 and I feared that there’d be a lot more goals going against the home team at this rate.
Then I made my claim for a contract at the club, as I went in pursuit of a loose ball that had headed behind the goal. A wonderful dribble was followed by a perfectly executed scoop pass to the keeper; sadly, Gibbo only caught me drunkenly dribbling (with the ball, not my mouth) and not the exquisite pass. The players were clearly impressed as they kicked the ball out again moments later, for me to repeat the same trick again. I’m here if you want me Knaresborough Town.
Admittedly, there was very little riding on this last game of the season game with Knaresborough having already secured 12th place and Hall Road having 17th place confirmed. Yet, fairplay to Knaresborough who battled valiantly despite being down to ten men.
As Knaresborough continued to attack Hall Road, I decided to go for a wander of the ground as Paul and Gibbo had already gone exploring. I met back up with them on the other side of the ground and it was down this left side that Knaresborough seemed to be doing most of their attacking.
The half began to die down and so it was time for the usual array of double thumbs up photos; something Paul was particularly happy about, as he was clearly not happy with his last effort at Harrogate RA, where he closed his eyes mid-photo. He rectified that today though – textbook double thumbs up.
There was still another opportunity for me to almost get myself an ASBO, as I swore loudly whilst working my way back to the bar. “Was there any need for that!” exclaimed an outraged mother alongside her little girl. I did feel bad, so I did apologise profusely, as I am not one to really go around swearing loudly left, right and centre. I was being quite the bad boy hooligan in little old Knaresborough today.
Half-time: Knaresborough Town 0 – 2 Hall Road Rangers.
More beer was acquired at half-time and soon we were ready to go for the second half. The second half was definitely more entertaining than the first, as the home team decided to go all out to try claim something from the game, despite their numerical disadvantage.
We watched the second half from the corner of the ground in front of the clubhouse. Well, I say ‘watched’, I found myself on my phone regularly keeping up with Swansea’s ‘Battle for 8th Place’ vs. Stoke, a team that regular readers may be aware that I deplore. So I think I startled a few of the locals, when I suddenly took off sprinting around the open area by the clubhouse shouting “YESSSS!” and performing an aeroplane celebration. This was my reaction to Jefferson Montero putting the Swans 1-0 up.
The game continued as I chanted “VIVA MONTERO!” much to the bemusement of the locals near me. They would soon have something to sing about though as Knaresborough grabbed a 78th minute goal when Matthew Pascal rose to bury home a corner. Game on.
Knaresborough threw everything at getting an equaliser and they really should have buried a few of their chances from corners, but sadly they lacked a clinical touch to seize a late point.
Full-time: Knaresborough Town 1 – 2 Hall Road Rangers.
We opted not to hang around post match and instead we headed straight back to Paul’s car (after I had run around again, as Swansea had just scored a late 2nd goal to make it 2-0).
Our next port of call was to be the pleasant riverside road that heads underneath High Bridge and directly alongside the River Nidd. It was a fairly pleasant evening and lovely for a short walk in this peaceful part of town. I would say this is my favourite part of Knaresborough and I did begin to speculate how much would one of those lovely little cottages cost alongside the river set you back; a hell of a lot of money is what I surmised.
I recently stated to someone that ‘culture’ does feature on this blog and so I was asked to define where. My definition of ‘culture’ was met with puzzlement when I decided it constitutes ‘culture’ whenever I drink in view of a canal /lake / river / reservoir / the sea (any form of water really), so I consider our visit to the World’s End pub as a spot of culture; it even references the Mother Shipton’s prophecy in the name, so this definitely incorporates ‘culture’ into this blog.
We discussed the game and our views of Knaresborough Town in the large conservatory-like room of the pub, before Paul departed us and we were left as a trio.
Onwards up the hill we went and back to the town square, where we headed into the remarkably old-school surroundings of the Borough Bailiff pub. It was in here we discovered one of my highlights of this season’s travels. I’m not sure what prompted me to pick this lager, but I had opted to try a Yorkshire Red Lager. Quite simply, the stuff is unreal. Me and Gibbo drank away, grunting our approval, before we both declared that it may well be our alcoholic drink of the season. The stuff is obviously good, as it turned out that me and Gibbo had had the last two pints of the stuff and the bar had actually run out; I was devastated to be denied a second helping of this magical booze. Maybe next time Yorkshire.
Our day in Knaresborough was coming to an end and so we decided to finish up in the The Mitre pub directly next to the station. Once again, we got our beer choice absolutely spot on here too, although admittedly it was a stark contrast in taste to the Yorkshire Red. For £5 a pint, me and Tom got ourselves some Timmermans Strawberry lager. I’ve had the raspberry variety of Timmermans in a bottle before, but this stuff was on another level. I could have drunk the stuff until my liver was no more and I questioned whether it even trumped the newly crowned ‘Beer of the Season’ from one pub earlier (I’ve since decided in retrospect that it probably didn’t). Beer had been kind to me in Knaresborough.
Gibbo hopped on his train back north to York and me and Tom caught the train south to Leeds, where I would have to change to get back to Manchester. I had felt fine in general, but on alighting at Leeds station, my tipsiness seemed to jump suddenly to drunkenness. Me, trains and beer all thrown together have a slightly tumultuous history. As recently as last month I got myself stranded in Crewe, whilst last season saw me stranded in Nottingham. So what was to go wrong tonight?
Predictably, I had a tiny bit of unplanned shut-eye, comfortable in the knowledge that the last stop was Manchester Victoria meaning I wouldn’t miss my stop. However, when I woke up, I did not bother to look what station we had pulled into and in a strange sort of panic I got off the train. It took me just long enough to realise my cock up when the train pulled away. This wasn’t Manchester at all. I looked around and immediately thought I was in Warrington train station. Yes, this was definitely Warrington – it looked like it in the darkness. So I strolled outside thinking there’d be another train to Manchester shortly, but it turned out this wasn’t Warrington. In fact, it soon occurred to me that a train from Yorkshire wouldn’t go to Manchester via Warrington in Manchester anyway. So where was I? Todmorden. Bloody Todmorden. “Not this again,” I thought to myself, although I felt a lot safer this time as it was only 9pm and there would still be time to fix my error…hopsefully. I was relieved to see that another train was bound for Manchester in an hour and this sense of relief was doubled when I spotted a pub directly across the road from the station.
Over my beer in the busy Todmorden pub, I had a chance to reflect on the day. Knaresborough Town FC had been a decent enough club and ground to visit without being too mindblowing. All was good there, but its not the most thrilling ground I’ve been to; seemed a good club though. However, in spite of that, today had undoubtedly been one of my favourite non-league outings for a while and I suppose that’s down to the town of Knaresborough itself. It really is a brilliant place and certainly one I’d recommend to anyone, whether you’re after a boozy day out or a more laidback outing. If the world was to end when the High Bridge falls again, I’d quite happily be in Knaresborough to see it all go to pot.
Highlights: Knaresborough really is lovely, plenty of good pubs and nice little tourist-y things, ground short walk from town, good clubhouse, decent game, our riverside stroll, Yorkshire Red Lager and Timmermans Strawberry beer, no Apocalypse.
Low Points: ground is a little basic, ending up in Todmorden somehow.
See all my photos from our trip to Knaresborough here.