Saturday 18 June 2022

Harpole - Harpole Playing Field

Harpole FC
Harpole Playing Field
Larkhall Lane

Ground Number: 1079
Saturday 18th June 2022
Harpole 1-4 Northampton Town Legends
125th Anniversary Match


The club was established way back in 1896, making this year its 125th anniversary. Very little is on the internet about their history, their first recognized honour coming in 1934 as they lifted the Northamptonshire Junior Cup. The club was especially successful around 15 years ago, winning the Northamptonshire Combination three times on the bounce between 2006 & 2009 and then again in 2011 and 2012. Due to their fairly basic facilities, they were unable to make the step up to the United Counties League and continue in a league that sits at step 7 of the Non-League pyramid. They've had a couple of runners-up spots since and have generally finished in the top half of the table. Last season they had to settle for a more modest 9th place finish, their lowest in recent history, but still well safe from relegation.

Harpole is a village around four miles west of Northampton with a population of around 1,600. Its name has the rather unflattering meaning of 'filthy pool'. These days, it's a quiet village with three pubs, although one of those, the Live and Let Live hit the headlines recently as it's set to close due to rises in the cost of living. Harpole hosts a scarecrow weekend in September, during which thousands of visitors enjoy the views of the historic village. The playing field, where Harpole FC play is a community hub with several fundraising events held there. The ladies' team of Northampton Town also plays there.



Aside from not being much else on, one of the main attractions for attending today's game was the Northampton Town Legends side. There were two notable names with a Wycombe Wanderers connection, the most well-known of which is the well-travelled Scott McGleish. The ace goalscorer Scott McGleish is the most notable one, his spell at Adams Park was one of 26 moves he has made across his career. He signed in January 2007 for a reported fee of £80,000 from Northampton Town. He proved an astute signing by Paul Lambert, scoring 34 times in 75 league games for a largely defensive manager. His best season was 2007/08 when he scored 26 goals, including all four in an away game at Mansfield Town. The following season Peter Taylor took over and the two parties fell out. McGleish went on to have loan spells at Northampton Town & Leyton Orient before being released at the end of the season. He is still playing to this day, appearing as a converted centre-back for Spartan South Midlands League side Leverstock Green.

The second of these was Chris Carruthers, a player that agreed to sign for Wycombe on 16th June 2005, but by the end of the month, he backtracked on his decision and joined Bristol Rovers instead. The reason the left-back gave was that Wycombe Wanderers manager John Gorman was unable to guarantee him a first-team place, the same applied to any player. He'd scored his only goal for the Cobblers against Wycombe but opted instead to join his former boss Ian Atkins at Bristol Rovers. It didn't work out badly for him as he played 100 times for Rovers before a nomadic career including prolonged spells at Oxford United and York City. As well as these two, there were a number of well-known players turning out for the Cobblers XI.


The second of my weekends in the off-season was a little more positive, with more games starting to become available. Ideally, I'd have liked to revisit the Cardiff City Stadium for Wales v Belgium. However, the evening kickoff made it difficult to get back to work the next day unless I fancied an expensive and inconvenient drive. Instead, I took a walk down town to my favourite pub for a couple of pints before one at the pub nearest home for good measure. It put me in a good mood, but I made the error of watching England for the second Saturday evening in a row. In the complete waste of time that is the Nations League, England managed to be even more boring to watch in their 0-0 draw with Italy. This continued on Tuesday when I made the sensible decision not to bother watching the Hungary game. I know the competition is the international equivalent of the Papa John's Trophy but a 4-0 home defeat to Hungary is not a great look.

I'd discovered this game thanks to my fellow hopper, Dan. Usually, his suggestions are not the greatest and usually involve huge distances and a big spend. However, this one was a decent shout and not too far, plus Anwar agreed to come with me. I awoke on the day of the game after around five hours of sleep as I woke up naturally at my usual work time of 7am. I still felt good though although I was in no rush to get going. There was rain forecast, so I didn't bother with a big walk which wasn't so bad as I was in a lazy mood. I did drop a parcel off at the post office though which got me out of the house. I spent the rest of the morning at home, catching up on things and trying to plan my weekend away in mid-July. The accommodation was a bit pricey in my first choice of Cullompton on Friday though, and the choice very limited. I had a great Thai Prawn fishcakes and chips lunch before leaving at 12.45. I needed petrol on the way and was dismayed to see that petrol had gone up 18p a litre since I filled up less than a fortnight ago. I could have probably got it cheaper if I'd shopped around, but this garage are generally competitive and it was right on my route. Plus I only saw one cheaper station all afternoon. I picked Anwar up at 1.15 and our journey was frustrating - along slow roads and also very rainy. The rain continued after we arrived at 2.30. The place was packed and we had to park on the road outside. There was a great number of stalls and I bought four old fanzines for £2 off of a stall called 'Cobblers Collectables'
The rain abated just after kickoff and Northampton Town had some recognisable names in their side. It was disappointing that their club had not really tweeted about it, but it was still a great attendance of around 400 at a peak. As expected, the Cobblers were well on top but Harpole had a goal disallowed for offside. Scott Cross opened the scoring on 22 minutes, heading home from a corner from about five yards out. On 39 minutes, Cross was on target again, the shot was parried by the keeper and he followed up from ten yards. There was a quick turnaround at halftime, only five minutes and so I missed out on the nice-looking pizza stall. Harpole reduced the arrears on 65 minutes when keeper Chris Dunn bought down a home player in the area. Lee Mills stepped up and converted the spot-kick and looked absolutely delighted about it. A minute later, a Cobblers player headed just over. They were not to be denied for long and it was 3-1 on 69 minutes. It was an error from the home keeper as he allowed a tame shot from the edge of the area to go straight through him. They came close to sealing the game soon after, a deflected shot hitting the post and they would hit the woodwork a couple more times before the end. The scoring was completed on 79 minutes and it was the goal of the game. Cross completed his hat trick with a mazy run and a well-timed finish to make it 4-1.

It had been a good day again, although I wish we'd got there earlier so I could look at the stalls more. The rain was also a pain but it is what it is. I was in good company, as well as Anwar, fellow groundhopper and blog reader Richard was in attendance. He sorted me out a programme from today which was a nice touch. He also told me about a time when Chester visited Adams Park. The queues out of Adams Park are well-known but their scumbag chairman Steven Vaughan who killed Chester City and Bangor City had other ideas. His driver forced his way through the crowds of pedestrians, nudging people out of the way and tooting his horn to force people out of the way. A true enemy of football. We left just after 4.30 and the journey home was beset by the same slow drivers that had blighted our journey there. We stopped at Farmfoods in Aylesbury and I got a pizza for dinner as well as some meals to take to work in the week. I was back by 6.30 and spent the evening relaxing at home with a few drinks, trying to enjoy the last bit of freedom before the horrors of Sunday. I'd endured a preview thanks to some screaming brats in Farmfoods and was in no rush to see a repeat performance, though no doubt it would come to pass.

THE LANE or HARPOLE PLAYING FIELD is a nice setup for a club at this level. There's a smart bar near the entrance and this has a lot of memorabilia on show, although I didn't check out the drinks range. Across the field is a part-railed pitch with some nice dugouts. It is located just outside the small village. On my visit, there were some superb stalls - the Cobblers Collectables was the pick with an incredible range of merchandise and old programmes. There were also some decent stalls including crepes, pizza, a bar and a burger stall. It's well worth a visit in my opinion and you'll get a good welcome. 

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