Result: Knaresborough Town 2-1 Washington (FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round)
Venue: Manse Lane (Saturday 31st August 2019, 3pm)
The FA Vase quest began for many clubs and I reckoned it’d only be right to join them on the first stop along the “Road to Wembley”. As I mulled over the rather extensive fixture list and narrowed it down, there was one venue that continually stood out; a long-time target of both a ground and town that I’d been looking at visiting. That ground and town was Manse Lane, home of Knaresborough Town and a day out and about in the scenic, historic town centre was all the encouragement I needed. After heading up through Manchester and Leeds, an earlier than planned train looked as though I could arrive into Knaresborough a good half-hour than expected – too good to be true, I thought to myself.
I awaited for things to unravel, which they then did, as the train from Leeds ‘broke down’ due to, and I kid you not, lighting failure. As a result, I was forced onto the service as far as Harrogate, but avoided a fairly lengthy wait for the next train along by grabbing a regular bus service from the neighbouring bus station up to the entrance of Mother Shipton’s Cave at the foot of Knaresborough itself. However, the various No.1’s did cause some confusion later in the day, as only one stops at the ground entrance – the others following the main road. Anyway, having disembarked after a twenty-minute journey, I made my way to the first pub stop of many during the day, that being The World’s End, just the other side of the bridge over the River Nidd. The clock had just passed midday, and as I sat down with a pint of Poretti(which I learned is Carlsberg’s £4.50 effort at a Moretti clone), I decided to check on the progress of the train I’d have otherwise been on. Delayed by at least 7 minutes? Good decision.
The rain began to fall just as I exited the pub and began to get rather heavy as I reached the foot of a steep incline that led up to the station and the town centre area of Knaresborough. I had to take this route anyway, but with the weather going on as it was and me not exactly in conducive clothing for it (a t-shirt and jeans alone) meant I decided to take up the option of popping into one of my planned post-match pubs – The Mitre. Upon entering, the bar staff there fairly easily saw my predicament and just why I’d made haste in getting there – I needed some cover! A pint of Black Sheep Pale Ale (£3.50) kept me company here until the rain abated and I could continue onwards into the centre itself; whereupon I discovered another public house I’d not known about prior to that point. Good job the rain had come in when it had!
Anyway, I continued to walk towards the castle area, which itself had been recommended by numerous persons for the views out over the town below, stopping off in The Groves as I did so, as the rain returned once more. I opted for a pint of the REAL Moretti (somewhere around £4) in this slightly modernised, yet still old-looking hostelry, before exiting out into bright sunshine and blue skies rolling in as the clouds dispersed. A cross and a number of statue characters populate the centre, along with many a-pub to choose from. I began with the nearby Blind Jack’s, where I opted for a pint of one of my fave beers, Erdinger (£4.85), before taking a seat in a small room alongside a Union flag – in a new role as a curtain. Really.
Knaresborough is a market and spa town, as well as a civil parish within the Borough of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. It lies upon the River Nidd and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chenaresburg, meaning “Cenheard’s fortress” within the ‘wapentike’ of Burghshire which would be renamed the more New Zealand-sounding Claro Wapentake in the 12th century. Knaresborough’s castle dates back to the Normans and around this, through the 11 and 1200’s, the town grew up to include the market (from around 1206) with traders being attracted to service the castle and those within, although the royal market charter wasn’t actually awarded until 1310 by Edward II, with the market continuing to take place today. The parish church of St. John was also built around this period whilst a Lord of Knaresborough was first identified around 1115, with the Honour of Knaresborough being bestowed upon Serlo de Bergh, by the King. However, it would be the 1158 Lord who would go down in infamy, as the constable of Knaresborough, Hugh de Morville, was leader of the four knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett within Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The knights would later return to the town’s castle and enter hiding. Rather cowardly?!
Hugh de Morville would be forced to forfeit his lands three years after the murder, but not because of that deed, but instead due to his involvement in the plot of rebellion against Henry the Young King, according to Early Yorkshire Charters. King John would later take on the mantle of Lord of Knaresborough for himself during the 1200’s, with Knaresborough Forest to the south of the town reputedly one of his favoured hunting grounds. He also distributed the first ‘Maundy Money’ in the town as part of the wider Christian celebration. The castle was later occupied by rebels against Edward II during his 14th century reign, and the invading Scots also burned much of the town during their 1328 raid. Since the death of Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife, the town has belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster beginning with the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, though the castle lost national importance soon after, though remained strong regionally. After the Civil War’s 1644 Battle of Marston Moor, the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces and fell with the Roundheads ordering its destruction in 1646, though this was delayed for two years, with much of the stone being looted and re-used in the town’s buildings.
A commuter town nowadays, the railways arrived in Knaresborough in 1848, and the current station replaced to the original one at Hay Park Lane after just three years. The town did link-up with Boroughbridge until the line’s closure in 1950 and its subsequent dismantling during the 1960’s. In 1974, the re-organisation of the counties saw Knaresborough move from its historic placing in the West Riding of Yorkshire and into the newly-created area of North Yorkshire, and hosts an annual bed race, because why not?! The town is also home to the “Oldest Chemists in England”, dating from 1720 and has landmark caves like the aforementioned Mother Shipton (an early ‘seer’) and St. Robert’s (from the Middle Ages). Incidentally, both the Mother Shipton and the earlier mentioned ‘Blind Jack’ names don’t even appear in the people in question’s names, with the former being named Ursula Southeil and the latter John Metcalfe, whilst other alumni include ex-Simply Red member Tim Kellett, ‘Allo ‘Allo’s René Artois, the late Gordon Kaye, and my personal favourite due to the description – ’18th century scholar and murderer’ Eugene Aram. Not a usual combination!
Around the corner from Blind Jack’s were two neighbouring pubs by the names of Six Poor Følk and the Castle Arms. Whilst the former looked like its beer options may be the more wide-ranging, I decided to go traditional and, of course, I was going to the castle as it was. So the latter it was for a pint of Amstel (£3.90) whilst a black dog near the bar decided it fancied a bit of someone’s drink at one point, though was unsuccessful in its efforts! From one castle to another I went and a brief visit to the former stronghold’s exterior lands, whilst the aforementioned views out over Knaresborough really were quite something. Anyway, with time beginning to run down into the last hour before kick-off, I returned back into the town centre and continued on with the royal theme by stopping off in the Old Royal Oak for my designated “refresher” pint of a Dark Fruits, this setting me back £4.
As I finished off, it was high time to grab the bus up to Manse Lane. However, this would be easier said than done, as the No.1 confusion set in. I first popped onto the first one (no pun intended) and was genuinely unsure if this was the one I needed, as the bus I was due to catch was due out in a couple of minutes time and there was no other in sight. The driver said it wasn’t his variant I was after and told me to try the one alongside which had just pulled in. I was pretty sure it wasn’t this one, and was soon proven right, as I was directed towards the 1C, which was just pulling in. Finally and safely on board, a short journey down to the ground followed, the stop being pretty much directly outside the gates. Speaking of the gates, I handed over my £6 entry fee, bought a programme (£1.50) from the table at pitchside and turned my attentions to the clubhouse; well, the food bar to be more exact – for pie, peas and gravy. Lovely stuff.
I was just finishing up the last of the pre-match feast as the side’s assembled and began to make their way out onto the field. I joined the exodus from the clubhouse too and exited out into Manse Lane once more. The ground is tidy enough, but without too much to blow you away in truth. It is home to a pair of stands, both of the more modern, kind of at-cost variety, with a covered standing area (and some benches) behind the near-end goal and just next to the turnstiles, whilst a small seating stand is located on the far side, around the half-way line. The remaining facilities are all located in the corner on the other side of the turnstiles to the stand, whilst the near-side is open, hard standing for the two-thirds that are accessible, whilst the far-end should be also, though is rather overgrown at this point, to put it kindly! That’s Manse Lane in quick form and this is the story of ‘the Boro’ from Knaresborough….
Knaresborough Town Association Football Club was founded in 1902, going on to join the York League and becoming champions at the end of their first season and then retaining it on both of the next two seasons. A fourth title in 1908 led to Knaresborough taking the step up to the Northern League in 1909, before becoming a founder member of the Yorkshire Combination the next year, whilst still competing in the Northern League too. However, these two stints would be short lived, and after finishing bottom of the Northern League in 1911, the club returned to the York League Division One before pulling their side out of the Yorkshire Combination two years later. Things didn’t improve and after a bottom finish in 1913, the Boro were suspended from the league for the following campaign. Harsh!!
After WWI had ended, Knaresborough were readmitted to the league and won it again in 1925, retaining it the next season and lifting it once more in 1929, but success fell away quickly, leading to the club resigning from the league at the end of the 1930-31 season after a second-bottom finish; but their sojourn would be brief and they returned for 1932 whereupon they again lifted back to back titles in 1934 & ’35. However, they would again leave in 1938, not re-emerging again until the 1950’s, with the club taking a place in the York League Division 3B for 1951. This and the Division 2B were both immediately won at the respective first attempts and the Boro were back in the Division One for 1953-54, spending three more seasons there prior to a move to the West Yorkshire League in 1958.
Their start was a bit yo-yo, with promotion from Division 2 being attained straight off the bat alongside the Division 2 League Cup, but the drop was suffered come the end of their first WYL Division 1 adventure. This was repeated again soon after when, after achieving promotion & the Division 2 League Cup again in 1961, their Division One stay lasted just the solo campaign once more. This time, rather than return back to Division 2, the club took the drop into the Harrogate & District League and in 1965 won the Premier Division which was then successfully defended the next year and was joined in the trophy cabinet by the Harrogate & District League Cup. A hat-trick of title wins was secured the next year and after a second League Cup triumph in 1968, Knaresborough returned to the West Yorkshire League, winning its Division 2 in 1970 and its own League Cup the next year.
But, despite these successes, a return to the Harrogate & District League was just around the corner and this time the Boro remained there for a good while, only in 1993 would they eventually depart once more. They again joined the West Yorkshire League, winning the League Cup in their first year back, though it took some time for further success to return to Manse Lane, with the Premier Division title being won in 2009, and a runners up placing in 2011 was also secured, with cup successes in the West Riding Challenge Cup and West Yorkshire League Trophy in 2010 being followed by the lifting of the West Riding Challenge Trophy in 2011. However, it would be 2012’s 3rd placed finish that would see Knaresborough finally promoted to the Northern Counties East Leaguen’s Division One, where the club remained until 2018 when they won title and were duly promoted to the NCEL Premier Division and Step 5 for the first time. As an aside, the club have also won the Whitworth Cup on no less than 21 occasions – the first in 1907-’08, and the last of these coming in season 2009-’10.
The game got underway and, if I’m totally honest, it had to be one of the more one-sided, yet close games I’ve seen quite some time. Knaresborough dominated the majority of the contest, but never could fully shake off their Northern League visitors. Their first real chance came from a corner, when the cross was punched wide when under pressure by the away ‘keeper, Ryan Lumsden. However, the Boro really should have gone ahead when Steve Bromley was released, but he proceeded to produce a quite awful finish in putting his shot wide.
The Washington’ keeper remained the busier of the two glovemen and he had be sharp in tipping a low shot from Andy Cooper wide, before he then made another good stop to deny Luke Harrop, with Harrop then setting up Dan Thirkell, but the defender could only fire over. Then, just before the break, Cooper was desperately unlucky when his fine chip hit the underside of the bar and bounced out, with the rebound directed goal wards by Brad Walker, though the Washy stopper was again equal to the task. Half-time arrived in a rather cagey first half, though Knaresborough would surely have been wondering just how they had failed to take a lead with them.
An uneventful 15 minutes came and went and we were soon back playing once again. Knaresborough maintained their dominance early doors, with centre-half Gregg Anderson heading over unchallenged from a corner and Harrop firing a long-range drive straight at the visiting ‘keeper. It really did appear as though it was going to one of those days for the hosts as both Bromley and Cooper again saw chances come and go, but finally, just before the hour, the deadlock was finally broken when a ball through found its way to Bromley and he slotted home to give his side, finally, a richly deserved lead. But this still didn’t seem to rouse Washington from their long-time slumber, and after I’d made the acquaintance of Dylan the dog and his dad, they went down to ten-men – Alex Ramshaw was given his marching orders due to something happening off the ball.
It then got even worse for the visitors when Knaresborough made it two; Harrop got clear down the left, cut inside and coolly finished. By this time, Washy really looked even more out of it than for the previous 60+ minutes and this was almost shown in footballing terms as a try from his own half by dangerman Harrop fell just wide of the post whilst the Lumsden again pulled off a good save to keep his side in with shout, even if it was more akin to one of someone losing their voice. A number of Knaresborough chances to seal the tie would follow each of Ben Cohen (not the ex-rugby player as far as I’m aware), Gregg Kidd, Thirkell & Luke Stewart all went close but they would then be given a setback that would set their nerves rattling.
Both teams would end with ten men when Bromley was sent from the field for, apparently, a challenge on the ‘keeper (though my initial Chris Kamara impression of not even seeing the red was bettered by me then seeing the player walking off and thinking he’d been subbed; the new Anthony van den Borre is now in Knaresborough) and this would then allow Washington a way back into the tie as some good work by Chris Pattinson allowed him to set up fellow substitute Lewis McGeoch, who calmly finished to set up a grandstand last 5-10 minutes.
They then almost grabbed a late, late equaliser but Boro ‘keeper Dom Smith, who’d largely been a spectator throughout, pulled off a great save to tip the ball behind and a counter from the resultant corner saw his side to swiftly head right up the other end, where Cooper had the chance to confirm Knaresborough’s place in the next round, but placed his shot against the post. However this would prove to matter little, as the referee blew up (not literally, of course) to signal to close of a rather strange game which could have been a hammering, but ended with nerves jangling.
Post-match, I made haste back up to the main road and the Marquis of Granby pub that is located pretty much halfway between the ground and the town. Upon entering, I discovered the place was a Sam Smith’s place which used to mean only one thing – CHEAP PINT!!!! But no longer, dear reader, oh no! Now it means three: cheap beer and, at the other end of the spectrum completely, no mobile devices or swearing. Honestly. Or, as I was to be informed, the place can be shut down if someone from the brewery was to walk in and see someone breaking this rule. Bloody hell – how pathetic….yet worryingly dystopian at the same time. Oh, the Taddy Lager was £2.80.
From there, I exited into a less dictatorial atmosphere and returned to the town centre square and the Market Tavern for another Dark Fruits (£4 again) before continuing on station-wards and back to the Commercial that I’d only discovered existed when setting eyes upon it. I entered what I later found out is the oldest pub in the town and….oh for God’s sake, it’s a bloody Sam Smith’s. How quick your viewpoint on something can change eh?! Just to show how outrageous the rules are, I actually got my camera out to have a quick check of the pics I’d taken today and was challenged to ensure it wasn’t a mobile device. Really. I do feel for these publicans who have to put up with this shit. Luckily for Samuel, the pint of Arctic Lager was just £1.49….you have another chance Smith; though you’re about as popular with me as your Aussie namesake at this point (not really, I prefer Steve)!
With my train’s arrival getting ever closer, I popped into the town’s ‘Spoons – The Crown Hotel – for a bottle of Hooch to keep me company on the first leg of the journey back home. It did just that and I finished off the last of it as the train pulled into Leeds, whilst the connection over for the service back to the Manchester was comfortable. Unfortunately, a slight delay on the way back cost a half-hour, but on the whole, this was only a small set-back on a fine day out. Knaresborough is a fine town and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. The ground was fine too, despite being generally unspectacular, with the food and programme therein both being decent offerings too, for their respective prices. It’s back onto the FA Cup circuit once again next week and I reckon I’ve got a venue ‘nailed’ on….
Value For Money: 8