Railway felled 2-1 as they battle Bamber and the wind

hsb  Railway v Radcliffe Borough. Dan Thirkell  (140301M4a)
hsb Railway v Radcliffe Borough. Dan Thirkell (140301M4a)

Harrogate Railway were unfortunate to finish without a point for their efforts in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Bamber Bridge.

Billy Miller’s troops were good value in the first half, overturning a 1-0 deficit just before the break and looking strong favourites to go on and win the contest.

But a howling wind which tore across the pitch in the second half effectively nullified their attacking threat, and a second goal from Bamber proved too much to overcome in a frustrating final 45 minutes.

There were positives - Railway threw on Bradford City loan player Louie Swain as left back who helped punch holes out wide and supported striker Nathan Cartman and winger Craig Radcliffe with aplomb.

Alex Metcalfe showed class to grab his first goal in a Railway shirt and Colin Hunter also played a stylish 22 minutes in the second half after returning from injury.

But while the wind was certainly a key factor later on, Railway logged worryingly few scoring chances and you couldn’t help wonder what might have happened if Hunter had been introduced just that bit earlier.

The defeat means Railway have suffered their third defeat on the trot, and they will need to rediscover their scoring fluency if they are to collect important points from Norwich Victoria on Tuesday, and Mossley in a week’s time.

Bamber Bridge meanwhile, are closing in on the top five, and they looked a decent outfit who put Railway under some serious pressure in the first 15 minutes.

Winger Alistair Waddecarr was a threat from the set piece, while burly striker Greg Johnstone was the go-to man from short range in the box.

Midfielder Lennie Reid provided an endless supply of ball, and Railway keeper Peter Crook was kept pretty busy for the first ten minutes.

But gradually Railway found some fluency, and the combination of Swain, Cartman and Radcliffe opened up and exploited a useful channel down the left which gifted Cartman with a peach of a shot after 15 minutes.

On another jinking run, Cartman rifled another shot from the left and after Lee Doves parried it away, midfielder Fatlum Ibrahimi nodded the rebound on to the cross bar.

A Cartman shot on the turn could have provided the opener, but drifted an inch over the bar after the striker seized on a deft pass from Radcliffe.

The first goal was just five minutes away, but it came from Bamber.

Having won a corner, Waddecarr fired into the box, but the visitors were in disarray, Reid eventually booting it back over the top to Waddecarr.

Another accurate cross back in, and striker Alex Taylor was on hand to turn it in past Crook.

Railway didn’t dwell on the setback, continuing to try their luck at the other end.

A Ibrahimi free kick gave Dan Thirkell a half-chance but he headed wide of the mark before a good cross from Swain provided Metcalfe with a shot right of the posts but it lacked power.

Railway enjoyed most of the possession for another 15 minutes, and finally, it paid off, shortly after Bamber had hit the bar through Waddecarr.

A beautiful run from Cartman put him in space, but a perfectly timed cross set up Metcalfe to head in at the near post.

It was nothing less than they deserved, and when skipper Jon Maloney ran on to a Radcliffe side pass and forced Doves to tip over the bar, it seemed Railway were poised to take this game by the scruff.

Half time felt like it had arrived too early, but as the second half began, the wind was cranking up, and it became clear that Railway were going to struggle.

All they had to do was hang on to the ball, because when they didn’t, it blew three feet further than it should have done and Bamber were waiting to pounce.

Sadly, this proved very tricky.

And when a loose ball reached the feet of the powerful Johnstone just outside the box, he looked up and ploughed straight through two Railway defenders unchallenged, before letting off a superb shot which left Crook stranded and nestled into the top corner.

There were still 42 minutes left on the clock, and Railway had it all to do.

To be fair, Bamber were equally devoid of chances after their goal, the only real danger a Waddecarr free kick which drew a diving save out of Crook.

Twenty minutes later, without another chance, Miller had seen enough and swapped striker Steve Bromley for Colin Hunter, and Maloney for Greg Kidd.

Hunter and right back Robert Hiza worked hard to dig out some opportunities, and then Ibramhimi teed up Swain for a powerful shot which crept left of the posts.

But that was all Railway had to show for it, and their frustration was best summed up by yellow cards for both Hunter and Cartman .

Right at the death, a Hunter free kick found Thirkell in space in the box, but he was deemed offside and the whistle was blown.

The final whistle followed shortly after, as the game drew to a quiet and disappointing conclusion.

“I think given the conditions we can’t be too disappointed,” said Miller.

“It was always going to be very difficult in this wind.

“We said at half time, because of that, we couldn’t let them into our half for the first 15 minutes. But we committed the cardinal sin of giving them the ball and they took their chance.

“After that, it was very limited chances and we were always going to struggle. I think a draw would have been a fair result.

“It brings to an end a very difficult week. We’ve played some tough games, Curzon are up there, Ramsbottom are looking at the play-offs and Bamber Bridge are up there too.

“We’re not a million miles away and this week we’ve got a chance to pick up some points against Norwich Vics and then Mossley.

“It gives us the opportunity to consolidate wher we are and get a few more points in the bag before the end of the season.

“It was great to see Alex Metcalfe score, it’s his first goal for us and he deserves it.

“He works really hard, does everything that’s asked of him.

“I gave Louie Swain 60 minutes at left back, where he wants to be playing at Bradford City.

“It was a bit of a baptism of fire for him but he rose to the challenge and gave great support to the wide players.”

Harrogate Railway: Peter Crook, Robert Hiza, Louie Swain, Dan Thirkell, Mike Morris, Jon Maloney (Greg Kidd 68), Fatlum Ibrahimi, Alex Metcalfe, Nathan Cartman, Steve Bromley (Colin Hunter 68), Craig Radclife; Subs not used Michael Jordan, Lee Ashforth.

Bamber Bridge: Lee Does, Matt Mahoney, George Bowyer, Paul Alexander, Roberto Bonaminio, Matty Kay, Lennie Reid (Zach Clark 60), Curtis Thompson, Greg Johnstone (Chris Marlow 67), Alex Taylor, Alistair Waddecarr; Subs not used Jerome Watt, Mark Buchan, Neil Reynolds.