Harrogate Railway’s return to the NCEL Premier Division ends in a 2-1 defeat at Station View having controlled the game for long passages of play.
Railway started well, quickly getting possession of the ball and passing it around with confidence and real purpose. Mansfield looked compact and well organized, holding Harrogate at arms length.
Railway’s first chance came from some great play on 16 minutes. Jake Lofthouse rolled the ball into the path of George Mason who drove forward.
George played the ball to Chris Ovington in midfield and he hit a 30 yard, cross-field ball to Ryan Sharrocks. Ryan then ran to the byline and got a great cross in to Stephen Bromley whose header just evaded The Bulls’ post.
Ovington had the next chance, forcing a fingertip save from Jason White as he connected well with the ball and the keeper pushing the ball to safety.
AFC Mansfield managed to get the ball in the net first as Gary Bradshaw headed what he thought would be the opening goal, only for the assistant referee to correctly flag him offside.
At half time, it had been a competitive opening 45 minutes with both sides having opportunities to score but with Railway probably unlucky not to be ahead.
The Bulls came out for the second half seemingly better organized and with more purpose. Then came the first decisive moment of the game.
Mansfield broke down the right, forcing their way into the box. Jordan Hendrie was pushed down onto his knees, with the Mansfield attacker getting around him before going to ground under Hendrie’s tackle as he attempted to get back to his feet.
The assistant referee had flagged as soon as Jordan had gone down, signifying a foul on the defender. The referee blew his whistle and then pointed to the spot for a penalty.
The referee waved away appeals for him to speak to his assistant and booked Jordan Hendrie for what appeared to be dissent.
Gary Bradshaw stepped up to take the penalty, which he hit hard and low to Jake Lofthouse’s left, who managed to get a hand to the ball and push it onto the post and away to safety.
There was a sense from the home supporters that justice had been served.
Railway pressed forward, spurred on by the penalty save and were awarded a free kick soon after, after a clash between Danny Patterson and Chris Ovington in midfield.
Stephen Bromley placed the ball down, 25 yards out from the goal and then unleashed a thunderous shot into the top left-hand corner of Jason White’s goal. Railway taking the lead, 1-0.
The Bulls pushed forward from the restart and ten minutes later the referee was again pointing to the spot to award them another penalty after Alex Low had brought down Lynton Karkach.
This time there could be no complaints about the awarding of this penalty.
The supporters watched as Jason White ran up from his own goal, picked the ball up and placed it on the spot. The Bulls’ keeper was about to take the penalty.
He took a short run up and hit it hard and to Lofthouse’s right, Jake nearly getting a glove on the ball. AFC Mansfield were level.
Railway responded, pushing forward to try and get the lead back and take all three points. Chris Ovington having the best of the chances, forcing White into a great save low to his left.
The decisive moment came following a Railway corner, with The Bulls breaking quickly downfield. Railway had a couple of chances to cut the ball out in midfield, but an unforced error saw the danger man Lynton Karkach get to the ball who then ran into the box past Alex Low.
Karkach made no mistake, firing a shot past the advancing Lofthouse and sparking jubilant scenes on the sidelines as Mansfield took a 2-1 lead with a couple of minutes left on the clock.
Try as they could, Railway were unable to fashion another clear chance and the final whistle came, with The Bulls taking all three points and continuing their good start to the NCEL Premier League campaign.
Harrogate Railway can take plenty of positives from this performance and count themselves a little unlucky. Attention now switches to the League Cup on Tuesday night with the visit of Ollerton Town and the FA Cup at Station View on Saturday.
Harrogate Railway: Jake Lofthouse, Simon Parkes, Jordan Hendrie, Danny Stimpson, Alex Low, Harry Brown, Ryan Sharrocks, Charlie Clamp, Chris Ovington, Stephen Bromley, George Mason
Substitutes: Daniel Barrett, Marcus Day, Rob chips, Luke Hirst
AFC Mansfield: Jason White, Matt Plummer, Mark Dudley, Grant Allott, Chris Timons, Danny Naylor, Ryan Williams, Ollie Pearson, Danny Patterson, Gary Bradshaw, Jimmy Ghaichem
Substitutes: Lynton Karkach, Craig Mitchell, Brad Wilson, Jon D’Laryga, Myles Wright
Goals: Stephen Bromley (Harrogate Railway), Jason White (AFC Mansfield), Lynton Karkach (AFC Mansfield)
Report and photography by Caughtlight Photography