Lancaster City 1-0 Harrogate Railway
A spirited Harrogate Railway were undone by a second half set piece as they fell to a narrow defeat at The Giant Axe.
Following a half of few chances, the decisive moment came in the 64th minute when Tom Kilifin headed Ryan Winder’s free kick past Tom Stewart.
Railway’s best chance of a leveller came through Dan Thirkell’s header, although Michael Hale made a terrific save to deny Harrogate’s Captain and send Lancaster on the way toa third league win on the bounce.
Lee Ashforth made one change from last weekend with Stephen Bromley taking the place of the injured Jack Stockdill.
Railway started well, just as they did last week, with Bromley almost capitalising on hesitation from Richard Mercer, although couldn’t make enough contact to make the hosts pay.
Thirkell’s long throws into the Dolly Blues’ penalty area were causing problems, but Bromley’s header was off target when the ball found him unmarked at the near post.
Ashforth’s men did eventually work the ‘keeper in the 29thminute when Harry Coates got on the end of LawranceHunter’s free kick and headed towards Michael Hale.
The attempt was the wakeup call Phil Brown’s men needed as Winder’s well hit free kick forced Stewart into making a save just four minutes later.
The hosts began to control possession but found Railway difficult to break down with attempts from Terry Cummings and Winder failing to work Stewart before the half time whistle.
Winder again tested Stewart from a set piece just five minutes after the restart, although Stewart was again equal to it; collecting at his near post.
Billy Akrigg then showed great pace to burst past Thirkell in the middle of the park but his final shot was dragged wide past the near post.
Brown’s side then found a way through the disciplined Railway defence from a set piece in the 64th minute when Kilifin emerged ahead of the advancing Stewart to nod homeWinder’s delivery.
George Mason looked for an immediate response for The Rail but his right footed strike after cutting in from the left was too high to test Lancaster’s stopper.
Kilifin then had a golden to claim his, and Lancaster’s, second when presented with a free header just a few yards from goal only for Stewart to block the attempt and gather the rebound.
With 18 to play it took a brilliant reflex save from Hale to tip over the bar and deny Thirkell levelling the scores with a powerful back post header from Hunter’s free kick.
Second half substitute Tom Owen, making his return from injury, then tried his luck; spinning a shot into the arms of the grateful Hale.
Lack of competitive action soon started to tell for Railway on the heavy pitch, as Akrigg began to take control of the centre of the pitch bursting forward and shooting just wide on multiple occasions.
Railway piled men forward in the closing exchanges, but the impressive Hale commanded his area well and ensured any dangerous balls into the Lancaster box were dealt with.
Ashforth’s men just didn’t get that lucky break, but go into next week’s home tie with Prescot Cables buoyed by the solid performance.
Harrogate Railway: Stewart, Parkes (Pells 76), Hunter, Coates, Low, Thirkell, Mason, Peers, Bromley (Day 61), Ovington, Sharrocks (Owen 68)
Subs not used: Robinson, Goodwin
Lancaster City: Hale, Davis, Henry, Watson, Marshall, Mercer, Winder (Carlton 80), Akrigg, Kilifin, Gregory(Cummings 12), Carney
Subs not used: Clark, Shearwood, Rodgerson
Goals: Kilifin 64
Referee: N. Aspinall