After an inspection this morning (Friday) the Harrogate pitch is frozen and with the weather forecast showing no improvement in the next 24 hours, the game has been postponed. The most probable date for it now to be played being the 17th of March.
The Yorkshiremen are one of our more regular opponents since league fixtures began back in 1987. Out of the seventeen matches played, Harrogate have won eleven to our four with another three being drawn including both games in the 2000/1 season. Having broken a long running sequence of defeats at home earlier in the season, Hoppers will be hoping to complete the double and record a victory at Claro Road for the first time since the one point victory in 2007/8. In fact this has been our only league victory at this particular place in West Yorkshire out of seven attempts.
Our hosts will be keen to take more league points off us as they are in the middle of the pack struggling to avoid relegation. This is unfamiliar territory for Harrogate as their only relegation since leagues began back in 1987, was from National 1 at the end of 2006/7. They’re making a spirited attempt to avoid the drop with a win at Nuneaton before having their re-arranged home game against Hull lost to a frozen pitch. Hoppers will be hoping for a thaw over in West Yorkshire but will need to break out of their recent malaise if they hope to get back to winning ways.
Since starting the season with a bang at Leicester Lions, 41-3 they have managed just four more victories, all at home. Hoppers thirty nine points to ten victory in October over Harrogate was our biggest ever winning margin, just bettering the thirty four to six point victory achieved in our first ever meeting in Preston back in 1955/56. No other Hoppers wins come close to these and Harrogate have handed out many a thrashing to Hoppers over the years.
A glance at the programme from Harrogate vs. Hoppers in January 1968 gives something of a clue as to why we were on the receiving end on many occasions. Whilst the Hoppers boasted such names as Brierley, Proctor, Threlfall, Blackhurst and playing in the number seven jersey Pete Ashcroft, our hosts names in the match programme were prefixed with a great number of stars and crosses denoting both County and International status, one I. R. Shackleton being amongst them. The result not surprisingly that day was at thirty one points to nil drubbing. Fortunately for the visitors, Jeff Young was otherwise engaged at Twickenham hoping to wear the Welsh shirt for the first time, something he did manage just two weeks later and on many occasions in later years together with a British Lions one for good measure.
With fixtures going back to the 1954/55 season the full record reads, Hoppers 8 wins against Harrogate 24 with five ending all square and seven being cancelled for various reasons. The sequence started back on the 23rd of October 1954 at Claro Road.
Coach Dave Baldwin will be hoping his charges can get back to winning ways with the help of some players recovering from recent injuries, after starting the New Year in fine style with two wins, a couple of disappointing performances remind supporters of January’s from recent seasons which were the start of a slide down the table.
It’s back to Cup action for the Seconds next weekend with a Quarter Final home tie against Caldy. Hoppers will be keen to avenge the drubbing they received at Paton Field in their last game whilst the Fourths make the long journey to Penrith to face their Third team in the third round of the Trophy Competition.