Part Two – A long, dark, (and wet), winter leaves Rangers on the brink
By Neil Winsor
Photographs supplied by Lee Myers
WITH a solid start to Hall Road Rangers first season back in the NCEL Premier Division, Rangers management duo Bill Gill and Andrew Watts were looking to kick on and build on their mid-table start.
As the year ticked over into October, Gill swooped to land Joe Cooper once more, and terms were also agreed to bring back Jake Vernon.
Whilst Vernon was still completing his master’s degree he would be used sparingly but contributed later on in the month, with a last gasp equaliser at Garforth Town (left).
October appeared to start well as Chris Spinks scored twice at the start of the second half at Penistone Church, however a crazy thirteen minute spell saw Hall Road collapse and concede four goals.
Fraser Hansen notched late on but it was too little too late as Hall Road threw away an almost nailed on three points.
A common factor in Hall Road’s season as they dropped 26 points from winning positions throughout the campaign.
Rangers composed themselves though as the rest of October largely went to plan.
Home wins against Clipstone and Staveley Miners Welfare saw Rangers flirt with the top ten again before the last gasp draw at Garforth Town, but Danny Chambers suffered a nasty elbow injury which would curtail his season whilst challenging for a header in the Staveley success.
The 1-1 draw at Garforth as well as the return of Jake Vernon, saw Steve Janney return for the club in goal.
Janney’s return, and indeed season was ended somewhat prematurely though when whilst racing to clear a ball downfield, turned his ankle on the heavy surface, leaving Josh Batty to go in goal (pictured).
So with a goalkeeping dilemma, Rangers squeezed past Ashington in the FA Vase, to move into the second round of the competition, before Hall Road swooped for Bridlington pair James Hitchcock and Benn Lewis.
Rangers also increased their striking options when they finalised the signing of another returning player, this time Sam O’Malley from Brigg Town.
A dramatic ending to the game at Pickering saw Chris Spinks rescue a point in added time to see Rangers pick up eight points from a possible fifteen.
November started in much the same vein, but as games began to mount Rangers relatively small squad began to toil on the heavier pitches.
A season highlight at home to Worksop Town kicked things off in the perfect manner.
Rangers raced into a 4-0 half-time lead as James Piercy, Josh Batty, Chris Spinks and Fraser Hansen saw Hall Road put the Tigers to the sword in front of 153 at Haworth Park before a nervy display in the East Riding Senior Cup helped Rangers see off Reckitts, but victory came at a price as they lost Piercy through injury.
Piercy would miss the next month of action and his absence told as Rangers conceded eleven goals in their next three games.
Pontefract Collieries recovered from two goals down to see off Hall Road in the Vase after extra time to end Rangers run for another year, before Hall Road surrendered another lead to lose at home to Liversedge in the league.
The low-point of Rangers season on the field came days later though as Athersley Recreation turned Bill Gill’s side over 5-1 at Haworth Park.
A 4-2 win away at Thackley would provide brief respite before November ended with another defeat this time at Rainworth MW, Rangers longest trip of the season in midweek.
Rangers cause wasn’t lped as traffic meant the Hall Road kit didnt arrive until just minutes before kick off.
With bad weather now also against Hall Road, December saw Rangers pointless, losing 3-0 at AFC Mansfield, and then going down at Haworth Park to Dave Ricardo’s new side Barton Town to end a memorable 2017 on a low note.
A further postponement at home to Bottesford Town on January 6, meant it was three weeks before the East Riding derby at Bridlington Town.
Rangers never got going and found Jake Day too hot to handle as he helped himself to four goals as Bridlington won at a canter, despite Danny Norton (right) putting Hall Road in front.
January will be remembered though not for events on the pitch, but more for what happened off the pitch.
Due to an adminstration error, Hall Road were docked a huge twelve points and handed a fine which plunged the club from relative mid-table safety, into the bottom three and into a relegation dogfight.
The players showed great focus though as they saw off another relegation rival Harrogate Railway in a 2-1 win which saw Chris Spinks, and Conner Harman score in first, and second half added time respectively.
It was at this point when the camararderie within the camp shone through.
The exodus of players never really materialised at this stage, and only Tom Bennett (Bridlington Town) and James Piercy (North Ferriby United) saw their futures away from Haworth Park.
January ended with Hall Road inside the bottom three of the table, and then being eliminated from the East Riding Senior Cup at the Quarter Final stage by an energetic Hull City Academy side.
During February and March, the country was dogged by poor weather.
With postponements proving a huge issue, three defeats in February, at home to Penistone Church and away defeats at Liversedge (League Cup) and Pontefract Collieries, left Rangers needing to play sixteen games in the final month of the season whilst trying to claw their way clear of trouble.
Signs were again starting to show though at the beginning of March that the gloom around Haworth Park was set to lift.
Following the departure of James Piercy, Gill had moved quickly to snap up Dane Mortimer who returned to Haworth Park via Barton Town, and Jacob Norburn two highly rated centre-backs, whilst also snaring left flanker Joe Milner.
Rangers led in their opening game of March through Gareth Owen, but lost to title-chasing Pontefract Collieries in their next league match as Aaron Moxam netted twice.
This game saw Reggi Waud, an extremely bright prospect from the Under 19’s, and at just 16 years old, make his senior debut for the first team.
It was a brave performance though at Staveley Miners Welfare which helped kickstart Rangers season, as five points adrift of Harrogate Railway and safety, they set about reversing the roles.
Fraser Hansen bravely put Rangers in front, converting a Danny Norton cross, and taking a kick to the ankle in the process before Josh Batty made sure of the points, smashing home from recent signing Charlie Birley’s lay-off.
The picture on the left showing Hansen hobbling off at full-time after bravely helping see his side win the game.
A five goal thriller then ended the month of March, but Hall Road would lose to Maltby Main despite once again leading.
They were signs though, going into April that Rangers were not going to give up their NCEL Premier Division status easily, but a huge fixture pile-up stood in their way of attaining their target.
April was going to be more about rotation and fighting through a heavy schedule, as Rangers had five points and four games in hand to make up on Harrogate Railway who were Rangers safety target.
Could they battle through four games a week to stay up against all the odds?