There’s no place like home for Harrogate Town chairman Irving Weaver.
Faced with a crippling fixture crisis following a host of home postponements due to poor state of the CNG Stadium pitch – unable to ‘bed in’ since the summer when it was relaid at some cost – Weaver decided to act in a bid to keep the club’s play-off hopes alive in Blue Square North.
With a stack of games in hand on their rivals, but with no let-up in the persistent wet weather to enable contractors to carry out remedial work on the surface, Weaver issued an SOS to rival clubs willing to lend Town a hand by providing a temporary base to play at – with his hometown club Doncaster Rovers coming to the rescue.
An old pals’ act came off with the Town chief, boss of Doncaster-based housing construction firm Strata Homes getting in touch with Rovers shareholders and good friends Dick Watson and Terry Bramall and Keepmoat Stadium CEO David Blunt, who answered his call.
The net result is that Town will play their home clash with Corby Town fifty miles away from Harrogate at Rovers’ Keepmoat base on January 29.
While it means a lengthy journey for supporters, Town intend to provide transport for fans wishing to attend and for Weaver, it is a case of needs must.
Weaver, whose side’s scheduled home clash with Boston United tomorrow is expected to fall victim to the weather – the umpteenth home game to be postponed this term – said: “I have a few pals involved at Doncaster who have been friends for years and they have really helped the club out.
“Yes, we would have preferred a more local ground, but we were unable to get a Category B ground capable of staging league games.
“York and Bradford had fixtures coinciding with the date, while Guiseley are a competitor in the same league and want to protect their pitch.
“And while we have played cup games already at Harrogate Railway and they are our near-neighbours, their ground doesn’t meet league standards and it’s the same with Tadcaster and Knaresborough.
“To be fair to Doncaster, they have let us have the ground just for basic costs. We know it is not ideal for our supporters, but we will put buses on at reduced prices to make sure we get some people there shouting for us.
“The Keepmoat is a great surface. It is an interwoven, synthetic pitch which is sustainable, even in adverse weather.”
As it stands, mid-table Town have only played 18 of their 42 league games so far with the club victims of their own success following a thrilling FA Cup adventure which took them to within a penalty shoot-out victory of booking a third-round trip to Middlesbrough. That, alongside the litany of postponements due to the weather has ensured Town are playing catch-up in a big way, although they remain handily placed for a play-off tilt if they get some momentum on a winning run.
They are currently just four points behind fifth-placed Altrincham with three matches in hand and they have even more games in credit on the sides immediately above them, Solihull Moors, Bradford Park Avenue and Boston.
Weaver added: “If we did not do anything now, we would be faced with playing two night fixtures a week at the end of March and in April, Given that scenario, we had to take action.
“We were at a crossroads and we have just thought: ‘We have got to find an alternative ground’ because of the backlog if we want to keep alive our play-off bid.”
Guiseley are scheduled to visit Corby tomorrow, with Halifax visiting Oxford City. Bradford Park Avenue host Workington, although all games are expected to be in serious doubt due to the weather.