May 2005

The Robins went into their last league game of the season knowing that a win would secure fifth place in the N.W.C.L. Second Division. The top four would be promoted but no one knew for certain if they would all meet the ground grading requirements for the First Division so a win in Staffordshire was still of the utmost importance.
On a wet, windy and cold evening, Harwood, wearing their changed strip of navy blue, attacked the clubhouse end with the driving rain behind them. The usual excellent following of around twenty, saw Harwood get off to a dream start, scoring within five minutes after a great run and cross from Sam Pope on the left wing, ended with Paul Mashiter applying a deft touch on the edge of the six-yard box to send the Robin’s fans into raptures.
Andy Taylor, playing as a forward, was then left with a one-on-one with the keeper after a poor pass from a defender but missed out after a last ditch tackle. Gradually, Norton came more into the game helped in no small way by some strange decisions by the referee, and some even stranger ones by the linesman who gave Norton every encouragement. Attacking down the flanks, the home wingers put over several crosses to the far posts, one of which was headed towards the bottom right hand corner of the Harwood goal. With the home players already saluting the goal, stand-in keeper Paul Snape produced a superb save to keep the Robins ahead. Sadly, the Red’s defence didn’t heed the warning and after another right wing cross to the far post, the equaliser came. Harwood battled to regain control but their attacks often came to a halt with an offside flag. Then, right on half-time, disaster struck when a deep cross from the left wing, went high into the night sky before dropping over Snape, onto the post, and into the net.
The second half saw Harwood go all out in attack, knowing that a draw would be of little use. Playing against the wind, the midfield began passing the ball around with renewed confidence, the defence battled as if their lives depended on it, and the strike partnership of Taylor and Mashiter began to worry the hard pressed home defenders. Around the 70 minute mark, the lively Mashiter dispossessed a Norton player and dashed into the box, but after side stepping a couple of defenders, he curled his effort just inches past the post. Not to be outdone, just a few minutes later he burst into the box and managed to get in front of his marker who foolishly dived in with a challenge from behind and gave away the inevitable penalty. Up stepped Mashiter to register his second goal of the game and his 21st of the season.
Parr, McKenna and substitute Denning completely took over in midfield as Harwood poured forward in search of the winner. Little was seen of the Norton attack but Snape was called on to make a fine save in isolated raid. Five minutes from time, the Robins deservedly re-took the lead when, after a goalmouth scramble and a terrific save from the keeper, Mashiter completed his hat-trick from close range. The Harwood fans were now dancing on the terraces and there joy was further enhanced a minute from time when Substitute Neville Nelson completed the scoring. Harwood broke from midfield after some superb pass and move play, and a line of four forwards raced towards the box with just a couple of defenders for company. Mashiter crossed into the middle to Taylor who knocked in onto the left where the unmarked Nelson gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net. The final whistle was greeted with loud cheers from the Harwood faithful who were rewarded by a show of gratitude from the players and management who all stood in front of the fans and gave them their own ovation.
So Harwood deservedly achieved the victory they needed and now had to wait to see any future developments on the promotion front. The Reds finished the league campaign with a six match unbeaten run including the previous two against Champions Colne. Would it be enough?


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