Craig Priest Reports....
Fixture: Kidderminster Harriers V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #3
Venue: Aggborough Stadium
Date & Time: Saturday 18th August 2012 – 3pm
Match Referee: Joss Joyce (Teeside)
Attendance: 1770 (400)
It certainly feels refreshing to be sat here talking about a victory however I can’t help but admit that six minutes into yesterday’s match I was sat cursing our luck, wondering if things would ever get better as we conceded from yet another set piece. Despite levelling the game two minutes before the break I still felt the game would turn away from us again and was right. At 2-1 down I was again beginning to sigh heavily until Lindon Meikle levelled the game on 60 minutes, there was just something about our body language at that goal which made me feel something inside burn from negative to positive, in the end it really was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the Stag!
Prior to yesterday’s game we we’re one point worse off than that stage last term (after two games) and there was a lot of negative thoughts and panic, now after three games we’re one point better off – kind of makes all that negitiveness pointless now doesn’t it – football’s won and lost over the course of a season rather than one afternoon!
I refuse to let it lie there as a few of you may say I’m painting a far too positive picture, I’ll hold my hands up and say it wasn’t encouraging in places but the important thing bar the victory, is that we’ve laid foundations to build on. There’s nasty rumour doing the rounds about Pilkington and Cox, I won’t elaborate on them nor intensify them but what I will say is that yesterday’s team selection proved that Cox will never pick anybody on merit or by status, captain or not he has to work like everyone else, he’ll have a tough job to move John Dempster out of the side, he one of four fresh faces yesterday and one of several players I can pick out that demonstrated something we’ve clearly lost over the past two games: Character.
Dempster came in to partner Jones, who donned the captains armband against his twice former employers, the former Crawley defender helped provide solidness at the back and as the game went on the duo gelled and reduced the Harriers to long range pot shots. I watched the pair closely, especially Jones whose been subject to heavy criticism, between them the win rate of headers inside their own half was roughly 85% - when a header was lost the other was there reading the game and covering, it was very rare the Harriers had opportunity to capitalize. Fair enough it wasn’t perfect and there’s definite room for improvement but again it’s a foundation to build upon.
The other names that helped assure us where again fresh faces, the first was player coach Andy Todd who played a right wing role. He helped stabilize the midfield with a number of challenges and encouraging runs, I watched him after we conceded the second and he rallied the whole team and was involved in 90% of our attacks as we looked to again pull level, his reaction with Murray after our third was exactly the one we’ve been looking for – passionate – for those who are suggesting dropping him in favour of Briscoe or Speight I can see your view point but I urge you to back Todd and just study the impact he has on the team off the ball. The other name was one I mentioned in the preview, Ritchie Sutton. Replacing Beevers at right back, he came in and made us solid down the right, if you we’re too watch the DVD back, I wouldn’t be far wrong when I say the number times Kidderminster got past Sutton for a cross was below five – it’s a shame the same can’t be said for the opposite side, maybe Sutton can go an influence that area and make a space for Thompson to come in at right back.
As mentioned Paul Cox made four changes to the line up to face Kidderminster, one in forced. Ritchie Sutton replaced the suspended Lee Beevers, John Dempster replaced captain George Pilkington at the heart of defence with Andy Todd on the right hand side of midfield replacing Jamie Tolley and Matt Rhead coming in to partner Green up front in favour of Andy Owens, Junior Daniel slotted in at left back.
Line Up [4-4-2]: Alan Marriott – Ritchie Sutton – Luke Jones (C) – John Dempster – Junior Daniel – Andy Todd – Gary Roberts – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle – Matt Green – Matt Rhead
Substitutes: John Thompson – Jake Speight – Louis Briscoe – Nick Wright – Chris Clements
The hosts kicked off but immediately found themselves on the back foot as Lindon Meikle intercepted James Vincent’s pass through the middle, taking the ball down the left the lively wide man slotted in Green who proceeded to round the keeper. Despite a heavy touch allowing the hosts to get back, Green still managed to win a throw in however the Stags failed to do anything with it.
Steve Burr’s Kidderminster had so far failed to score prior to the game, on six minutes they looked to change things as former Stags midfielder Keith Briggs played a neat, but unintended ball, to the edge of the box for James Vincent – his effort with the outside of his right boot forced Marriott into an acrobatic save, conceding a corner – yeah you guessed it, from which the Harriers scored. Marvin Johnson delivered a sweet left footed out swinger which saw the Stags fail to track the run of Jack Byrne who leapt high to nod forcefully into the back of the net.
Kidderminster 1-0 Stags
Four minutes later a late challenge from Gary Roberts saw him go into the referee’s book before the harriers registered another effort. Luke Jones thought he’d done enough to clear the danger with a dominant header away, Anthony Howell was disposed picking up the second ball by Vincent whose shot cannoned away of a red shirt. The ball fell into the path of Ryan Rowe who fizzed an effort well wide of the target from 20 yards.
At the other end Matt Green had opportunity to bare down on goal on 16 minutes, after Gary Roberts had played a delightful chip over the top. The goalkeeper got just enough on the ball to divert it away before Geohaghon hoofed clear, the Stags kept on the pressure though as Andy Todd collected on the half way line, driving forward before delivering a cross to Rhead who was inches away from connecting at the front post.
Alan Marriott was then the saviour for the Stags as Kidderminster’s Ryan Rowe raced through, Marriott out of his box to smash the ball away before Rowe could latch onto the clearance on 24 minutes, four later it was the Stags’ turn to trouble. Gary Roberts held up well in the middle before sending Ritchie Sutton on his way down the right, it was his strong cross towards the back stick that caused trouble with Rhead nodding back across the box from the far post. Anthony Howell then steamed in to head towards goal, Harriers’ shot stopper Danny Lewis picking the ball out of the air.
Lindon Meikle then thought he’d levelled the game on 32 minutes after Matt Green had flicked the ball up into the air following a Rhead flick. Meikle tapped into the empty net but only after the referee had awarded the hosts a free kick following a foul on the goal keeper by Green, thus the goal ruled out.
Moments later the goalkeeper stood tall to deny a Matt Green chip before Matt Rhead headed wide from a clipped cross from the advancing Junior Daniel down the left hand side with 37 minutes on the clock.
Mansfield’s determined attitude then saw them level proceedings with two minutes to go before the break as Exodus Geohaghon fouled Matt Green on the left hand touchline. Gary Roberts delivered a fine free kick towards Rhead at the back post, Rhead’s dominant header was saved well by the keeper but proved too hot to handle, the loose ball falling for Green who stroked home from close range.
Kidderminster 1-1 Stags
A late Geohaghon throw, the first of the game, caused no bother for the Stags who headed clear and at the half time whistle the teams went it all square.
HALF TIME: Kidderminster 1-1 Stags
The hosts registered half an effort with a free kick a minute into the second half however it was the Stags who started the brighter with Junior Daniel winning back possession on the left before switching play to Andy Todd. His right sided cross was just too quick for both the Matt’s before Meikle picked up on the left. The wide man’s curling cross was headed into the mix by Green but scrambled away by Mike Williams.
Despite Mansfield’s pressure it was again the Harriers who took the initiative on 51 minutes as a well weighted pass down the left hand side caught Junior Daniel out of position. Ryan Rowe played a low pass inside for Marvin Johnson, whose effort from the edge of the box took a slight deflection to go beyond Marriott and restore the hosts lead.
Kidderminster 2-1 Stags
Kidderminster searched for a third from a corner on 55 minutes however Alan Marriott was equal to Marvin Johnson’s delivery and five minutes later, the Stags came alive as cometh the hour, cometh the fight back. Kidderminster were pressuring however Luke Jones remained calm to volley away the danger, Matt Rhead dropped deep to pick up the loose ball and it’s in that moment where the Stags finally found their life. Rhead controlled tightly before playing a splitting pass through the middle for Green to race onto. The deadly front man found himself baring down on goal and skipped the challenge of the keeper and covering defender Rob Austin. With the angle against him he played Meikle inside and, after dancing out of trouble, squeezed home the leveller from a tight angle.
Kidderminster 2-2 Stags
Refreshed from the goal the Stags looked to kick on and take the lead, Andy Todd playing a well weighted pass for Roberts on 64 minutes. The creative midfielder showed good pace to get on the end of the pass but failed to pick out the onrushing Meikle as the hosts got back to clear their lines well. The Stags then had a further two chances in as many minutes, first Matt Rhead cut in from the left and saw his shot palmed away before Andy Todd struck narrowly wide from the edge of the box on 66 minutes to earn a corner – Gary Robert’s out swinger glancing off the head of Rhead and out for a goal kick.
Mansfield we’re beginning to dominate and it was an old favourite who became the villain in the Stags’ eyes as Geohaghon raced back to clear an Anthony Howell shot on 68 minutes before Andy Todd earned another corner. Lindon Meikle was then denied from distance two minutes later.
Paul Cox was then subject to a torrent of boos as he withdrew the lively Green for Nick Wright with half an hour left to go. With eight minutes left to go the Stags sent 400 travelling fans into delight as a fine break away saw the pressure finally pay off. Ritchie Sutton sparked the move with a dominant clearance from right back, Matt Rhead nodding down to Meikle. The wide man played a central ball for Wright who, in an offside position, stood clear but held off the defender allowing Meikle to burst into the box, round the keeper and smash into the top corner with his left boot.
Kidderminster 2-3 Stags
Harriers substitute Nathan Blissitt then drove into Marriott’s hands from the restart however it was again Wright and Meikle who linked up down the left, this time Meikle denied a hat trick as he drove into the side netting after skipping the challenge of ex stag Keith Briggs in the 85th minute.
With a minute left it was Geohaghon who caused havoc for the hosts, his trademark long throw had Stags on the back foot, however Alan Marriott collected via the head of skipper Luke Jones, the full time whistle signalling the end of a game in which Mansfield improved with time.
FULL TIME: Kidderminster 2-3 Stags
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