Season preview: Survival the key for Harrogate Railway boss Lee Ashforth

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Surviving the drop is new Harrogate Railway boss Lee Ashforth’s primary aim as he sets sail on his first adventure in management on Saturday.

Ashforth will lead a much-changed Railway into a first competitive match for the first time as the Evo-Stik season begins on Saturday.

Jason Mycoe (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Jason Mycoe (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Former National Premier outfit Droyslden come to Starbeck on Saturday, before Ashforth and his merry men travel north to take on Spennymoor Town on Tuesday evening.

Ashforth was promoted to the top role at Station View following Billy Miller’s surprise switch to NCEL Premier side Tadcaster Albion at the end of last season.

Miller took star players Adam Baker, Matt Heath and Jordan Armstrong with him to Tad, while winger Rob Youhill moved up a league to Darlington 1883 and goalscorer Malachi Farquharson left for Rushall Olympic to complete his masters degree.

A busy pre-season of recruitment followed for Ashforth, with more than a dozen players brought in to provide competition for places.

New signing Roy Fogarty (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

New signing Roy Fogarty (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

That recruitment was finalised this week with deals for defender Jack McCarthy and striker Olly Smith.

Ashforth admitted the bucketful of new players would take time to adjust to the ways and means of the club, but was hopeful his side would escape a season of toil at the bottom of the table.

He said: “We have to make sure we keep in the Evo-Stik. We don’t want to be fighting relegation in April and May time.

“It’s the plan to get as safe as possible in the league.

“People might think that is quite pessimistic, but we have lost five or six players from last year and the league is probably the hardest league that it’s been. Looking through the league, there isn’t an easy fixture.

“The teams that were in and around the bottom last year seem like they have good budgets and at the top, there seems to be a lot of teams going for it this year.

“It’s going to be difficult but that’s a challenge for us and we have to make sure we match up in every game. I feel we are capable of getting a result from any game.”

The two opening opponents have both been placed at the forefront of the early betting for the First Division North title, providing the toughest of assignments first up for the inexperienced gaffer.

A trip to Ashforth’s local side Brighouse Town follows next week, before Scarborough Athletic - another side tipped for promotion – arrive on Monday, August 24.

Two of the new players, Ryan Sharrocks and Dan Barrett, will miss the first Saturday’s of the season due to cricket commitments, while Greg Kidd is suspended.

“We have a really difficult first four games,” added Ashforth.

“It will take time for us to gel because of the number of players that we have brought in but I would like to think we can get some wins early doors.

“It’s going to be difficult but that’s a challenge for us and we have to make sure we match up in every game. I feel we are capable of getting a result from any game.”

Survival could hinge on the burgeoning relationship with their National North neighbours Harrogate Town, whom Ashforth has already approached to rebuild a flagging relationship towards the end of Miller’s reign.

Town’s youngsters Connor Bower and Rob Worrall could be two of the players set to be given loan spells down the road at Rail’.

Ashforth said such a link was “massively important”.

He added: “I know Simon is going to be supportive whenever he can.

“The calibre of players that we can get from them will be really helpful throughout the season I am sure.

“But it has to be helpful to both clubs. It’s no good them just trying to help us out, I have to do what’s best for him as well.”