Belper Town 3-4 Harrogate Town, 9th April 2002 (UniBond Division One)
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
“People used to say Bill Fotherby’s a bulls*****r, but one thing about Bill Fotherby is he makes things happen,” is what jubilant Harrogate Town chairman Bill Fotherby told the Yorkshire Evening Post after watching his team clinch promotion to the UniBond Premier Division for the first time in their history.
Fotherby had defied his age to sprint onto the pitch upon the final whistle after a last gasp strike from captain and former Farsley man Robbie Whellans secured the first of two promotions under Fotherby.
Fotherby had demanded promotion and the evening game saw his dreams come true, but at one point, his hopes looked to have been put on hold.
The game which Harrogate had been expected to win proved to be nail-biting. Michael McNaughton had given Harrogate the lead before Belper hit back with two goals.
Whellans equalised, but Belper scored again as the final 20 minutes approached to take a 3-2 lead to delay the promotion party until Darren Fell levelled on 67 minutes.
And with 14 minutes left on the clock, Whellans smashed home the winner to complete the first of Fotherby’s targets for Harrogate.
Fotherby had sanctioned big-name signings which included future Harrogate boss Neil Aspin and in the summer of 2001, appointed John Reed as manager which proved to be a masterstroke.
Reed’s Harrogate led the First Division for almost the whole campaign before winning promotion at Belper.
Further success followed as Town reached the Conference North in 2004.
Harrogate went onto consistently finish in the top eight until the credit crunch began to bite in 2009
Fotherby stepped in 2011 after selling his shares to businessman and current manager Simon’s father Irving Weaver, but the Belper victory remains significant because it was the win which put Harrogate on their way to the Conference North – a journey financed and made happen by Fotherby. And his contribution must never be forgotten.