Harrogate Railway have collected their highest finish and record points haul since rising into the Evo-Stik First Division North.
Saturday’s 3-0 win over Lancaster City sent Railway smiling into the summer with an eighth-placed finish written in the record books in eighth
After a year of knocking on the door of the play-offs, Billy Miller’s men ended ten points off the top five teams gunning for promotion.
“Three wins and a draw off the play-offs, how good is that?” Miller said.
“It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and good emotions at that. It’s been an unbelievable ride with a fantastic group of players that have just bought into everything that we set out.
“You wait a long time in life to get that and fortunately, this year it happened.”
Railway supporters would have been forgiven for believing a relegation fight was on the team’s hands after the opening month of the season.
Despite scoring nine goals in the process, Railway went their first four league matches without victory and were rock bottom of the table.
Four straight wins in all competitions followed but it wasn’t until November that Miller’s strategy clicked into place.
The introduction of ex-Leeds United defender Matt Heath from Harrogate Town and young goalkeeper Tom Goodwin from AFC Fylde reaped immediate rewards, as Railway won ten out of 13 matches in November and December. That run, which coincided with Nathan Cartman’s incredible goalscoring streak, brought Miller the December’s manager of the month award, as Railway turned the year inside the play-off zone.
Cartman’s goalscoring antics caught the eye of the nation. The small attacker notched 36 goals in the opening four months of the season, even outscoring Cristiano Ronaldo at one stage.
The forward’s move to Darlington 1883 in January became the first player sale in the club’s history – two months after he made the headlines by signing a contract at Railway.
But Cartman wasn’t the only goalscoring machine as Railway plundered 85 goals in the league and 25 more in cup competitions . Malachi Farquharson finished the season with 23 strikes, and played a vital role in taking the club through the Evo-Stik Doodson Cup quarter-finals.
Railway soon became regarded as the league’s giant-killers. Out of the top six sides, only second placed Darlington enjoyed a perfect record over them, and champions Salford City were despatched twice.
But Railway’s record against the lower teams in the league dropped them from the play-off contention. Miller’s side dropped 16 points out of a possible 30 against the bottom five clubs in the league as they fell into mid-table.
Of the 13 defeats sustained, eight came against sides below Rail’ in the lower regions of the table.
“We need to look at how we play against the bottom teams, we have probably been a little too open against them,” added the boss.
“Our record against them wasn’t great but when you look at our record against the top five, it was brilliant.
“To say that out of the top five only Darlington beat us twice, that shows exactly how far we have come.”
Harrogate Railway 3-0 Lancaster City
First goals of the season for Dan Thirkell and Jordan Armstrong sent Railway into the summer smiling with a 3-0 win over Lancaster City.
After an even and goalless first half, the game turned on its head when Malachi Farquharson beat Mike Hale to Daniel Thirkell’s long ball over the City defence, and the striker went down under contact.
Thirkell sent Hale the wrong way from the spot to give the hosts the advantage at half-time.
The lead was doubled 10 minutes into the second half when Adam Baker cut inside from the left flank and curled a precise curling effort over Hale from the edge of the box.
Railway wrapped up the points as again Farquharson went down under a challenge from Jacob Davis in the box and Jordan Armstrong lashed the penalty down the middle.