The fixture that surely nobody believed would ever happen finally becomes a startling reality this weekend as York City make the short twenty-mile trip for a league game at Harrogate Town.
Never considered a serious enough challenge to warrant the title of ‘rivals’, Harrogate were obviously recognised neighbours but always the much poorer relations. And while they doubtless significantly aided in developing the goalscoring talents of City’s 1993 Wembley-winning striker Ian Blackstone, the more usually accepted trade route was in the opposite direction as the Football League club’s rejected youngsters periodically attempted to rebuild their shattered dreams at the homely part-time outfit.
But Harrogate are instead suddenly an ambitious full-time operation under the steady guidance of former York trialist defender Simon Weaver; one sitting proudly at the top of National League North having already triumphed in eight of their eleven games while simultaneously registering a highly impressive thirty-three goals.
By contrast York have too often spluttered in mystifying fits and starts on the back of consecutive relegations, until at least finally recording a trio of creditable victories while remaining unbeaten in their latest four attempts.
The visitors will yet again have the vast majority of the support after reported record ticket sales at the CNG Stadium, but have too often struggled when enjoying that advantage as their ongoing unconvincing home form attests.
Therefore this latest challenge will probably be more a case of how exactly they handle the pressure of making the short excursion across to the leafy spa town of Harrogate; a statement alone that nobody would ever have believed possible when referencing a proud club who virtually twenty-two years to the day were shocking the entire football community by famously conquering Manchester United at their own normally impenetrable ‘Theatre of Dreams’.
“We know if we go and beat them we’re five points behind,” manager Gary Mills told BBC Radio York. “We know if we don’t then we’re eleven points behind. But we’ve got to go there and get a result. We’ve got to show what we’re about. Harrogate will look at it that they’re above us in the league at the moment. A couple of years ago they would only have dreamt of something like that. They’ll want to put one over us, so I’ve got to make sure as manager of York that they don’t.”
Harrogate Town Team News:
Leading scorer Simon Ainge [groin] and regular deputy Dominic Knowles are both ruled out and have recently been joined in the treatment room by former York loanee striker Jake Wright. Others currently sidelined are defender Louie Swain and midfielder Lloyd Kerry.
Harrogate Town (possible): Belshaw, Fallowfield, Parker, Falkingham, Kennedy, Burrell, Thomson, Emmett, Leesley, Thewlis, Agnew
subs: Burdett, Cracknell, Middleton, Day, Gooda
Player to watch: Joe Leesley
Creative player and regular major contributor in the attacking third of the pitch.
York City Team News:
Midfielder Adriano Moke [thigh] makes a timely return after six games out while the visitors were also hopeful that experienced strike pair Jon Parkin [knee] and Michael Rankine [high blood pressure] would be available. Otherwise, Clovis Kamdjo [knee] and Matt Fry [knee] remain sidelined.
York City (probable): Worsnop, Law, Parslow, Bencherif, Whittle, Heslop, Moke, Newton, Almond, Parkin, Morgan-Smith
subs: Wharton, Smith, Sukar, Muggleton, Felix
Player to watch: Jon Parkin
Now with over two-hundred senior goals, and when he’s not actually the one scoring is still invariably heavily involved. But will have to come to terms with the artificial playing surface.
Match Facts & Stats
No previous meetings at a competitive level.
Harrogate – Bradford PA (FAC3QR) (H); York – South Shields (FAC3QR) (A)
Saturday Games: Boston v Darlington; Brackley v Curzon Ashton; Chorley v AFC Telford; Gainsborough v Salford; Harrogate v York City; Kidderminster v Blyth; Leamington v Bradford PA; Nuneaton v Southport; Spennymoor v Alfreton; Stockport v North Ferriby
Sunday: FC United of Manchester v Tamworth