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Team of the Week 9th February

A day later than normal, its time for this week’s team of the week awards, featuring a well earned replay, a hard earned win and a superbly earned draw. Read the rest of this entry

Welling Extend Harriers’ Aggborough Agony

This was a day of firsts at Aggborough. Lively midfielder George Porter grabbed his first Welling United goal, Jordan Tunnicliffe saw red for the first time in his career and Antigua and Barbuda international Zaine Francis-Angol wore the historic red and white of Kidderminster Harriers for the first time. But the most hotly anticipated first – a first victory of the season – continued to elude Harriers. Despite a decent display, backed by the vocal support of the Aggborough faithful, it was another frustrating afternoon for Colin Gordon’s charges.

Nestled within the largely green and tranquil Wyre Forest district of Worcestershire, Kidderminster is an unremarkable but fairly pleasant town, best known for its carpet-making heritage and as the home of the county’s only ever Football League club, Kidderminster Harriers. The town’s Wiki page also informs me that it was formerly the home of ‘80s TV chef and UKIP candidate Rustie Lee. Heady stuff.

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Kidderminster’s busy town centre.

Today’s time constraints mean that the usual pre-match meal in town is scrapped, in favour of a bacon butty (lukewarm – hopefully the football won’t follow suit) and a pint of Hereford Pale Ale (delicious) amidst the bustling environs of the Final Whistle. This pub, based inside Aggborough, is one of several spots in and around the ground to settle down with a pre-match pint and bite to eat. With a social club also in the ground, and several good venues nearby, the only lack of options around here is in the Harriers strike force.

Here in the Final Whistle, blokes of every age pore over this week’s edition of The Harrier match program, where striker Reece Styche answers fan questions, in the process revealing his love of Leonardo da Vinci and describing why he wouldn’t want to be a slug. As someone who has long objected to the lack of surrealism in Non-League matchday publications, I’m delighted.

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Pints, predictions and pre-match chats abound in the Final Whistle pub.

The mood around the place is surprisingly optimistic. The playing budget at Aggborough has been slashed in half for this campaign, and much-needed cutbacks have been made in other areas too. Right now, Harriers fans may just be happy that the lights are still on here. And there’s plenty of us home. Despite four defeats in the last five home games, there’s 1,438 of us in attendance – including a small but hardy band of Welling fans huddled together upon the South Terrace, proudly tying their flags onto the stand.

It’s one of two terraced stands at Aggborough – the North Terrace lying behind the other goal, and housing Kiddy’s most vocal support. I opt for the traditional main stand – the C&S Solicitors Stand – which runs along one side of the pitch, opposite the modern and smart Hire-It! Stand (which, confusingly, is not available to rent). The fairly smart interior of Aggborough belies the fact that this ground is 125 years old, though its largely corrugated exterior evokes either unpretentious tradition or Soviet Russia, depending on how kind you’re being.

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Harriers’ passionate supporters on the North Terrace reflect on a tight first half.

The teams kick-off, backed by an upbeat home support, and in the early stages, this good feeling seems warranted. Kiddy’s Joe Clarke has the first half-chance of the game, but his 4th minute free-kick lands safely in the arms of Welling’s young ‘keeper Tom King. The home side look the livelier outfit throughout the opening 15 minutes, but struggle to turn possession into good chances. Harriers also look nervy in defence, and only the reactions of ‘keeper Alex Palmer stop a goalmouth scramble from putting the visitors ahead just before the 20-minute mark.

The hosts continue to play some neat passing football, and the talented Jordan Jones blasts an effort just wide after superb play on the wing. Too many of their moves, though, are breaking up in the final third, against a strong Welling defence who haven’t conceded more than once in any game since August. Tahvon Campbell’s effort – another comfortable stop for King – is the final act of a tight but intriguing first half.

At half-time, fans queue for Aggborough’s famously good food as the theme from The Great Escape booms out over the tannoy. But any plans to escape from 24th spot today are thwarted in the early minutes of the second period, as individual errors enable the skillful George Porter to make his mark on the game. First, his curling free-kick sneaks under Palmer, who should probably have kept it out. Then, a misplaced ball from Hodgkiss allows Porter a clear route through on goal. Jordan Tunnicliffe trips the Welling man, and though the contact is slight, the Harriers’ last man receives a straight red. From then on, the home side’s task looks momentous.

Amidst a continued cacophony of chants from the passionate Kiddy fans upon the North Terrace, George Porter continues his role as today’s pantomime villain. The speedy midfielder oscillates between producing exciting moves and rolling around petulantly to try and win free-kicks. Indeed, whilst Welling put in a solid and disciplined footballing performance, a few of The Wings players hope to gain the referee’s sympathy with some rather questionable ‘injuries’. Cynics might suggest that some members of Loui Fazakerly’s side have failed to learn the lessons of the embarrassing and costly Sahr Kabba debacle.

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Welling look to double their lead on the counter-attack.

With that said, Welling also show some of the game’s best flashes of quality. A superb move is almost finished off by the lively Xavier Vidal with a quarter of an hour remaining, but he can’t quite provide the strike needed to double their lead. In the closing minutes, 10-man Harriers surge forwards, but neither Reece Styche’s curling effort nor Kelvin Langmead’s close-range header in injury-time hit the target. The points go to the club from Park View Road, who make it four wins in four. The contrast between the fist-pumping, cheering Fazakerly and the dejected Colin Gordon could not be starker.

This has been a decent performance from both sides, in a tense and hard-fought game. But for Kiddy, positives in defeat are hard to take after a 14-game winless run. It may have been a narrow and nervy win for Welling, but Kidderminster would give anything for one of those right now. Already five points from safety, Tuesday night’s game against fellow strugglers Boreham Wood at Aggborough could hardly be more crucial.

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The distinctive exterior to Aggborough as fans head home, as do Welling (with all three points!).

Kidderminster Harriers – 0 [Tunnicliffe Sent Off, ‘52]

Welling United – 1 (Porter, ’49)

3pm, 3rd October 2015

Aggborough, Kidderminster (Att: 1,438)

 

Ticket & Travel Info:

Ticket Prices: Terraces (North & South Stands) – Adults (£14), Over ‘60s/Students/Young Adults (£8), Under-16s (£5), Under-5s (Free)

Seats (C&S Solicitors & Hire It Stands) – Adults (£17), Over ‘60s/Students/Young Adults (£11), Under-5s (Free)

Travel: Kidderminster can be reached by direct train from Worcester, Smethwick or Birmingham’s Moor Street and Snow Hill Stations. The ground is also located close to the convergence of the A448 and A451 roads.

Ground Location: Aggborough lies 0.5 miles south-west of Kidderminster Railway Station, and the same distance south-east of the town centre.

Non League Podcast Episode 65 Now Available

Join Kristan, Rob and myself for the latest nonleague chat.

After a two week break, yours truly returns to the podcast this week, and as ever there is plenty to discuss. There’s the Kingstonian goalkeeper Rob Tolfrey who jumped into the terraces to confront Bognor Regis Town fans after their match:

On a similar front, Torquay United defender Angus Macdonald has been fined and issued an apology after he engaged in a verbal spat with supporters during their 0-3 FA Trophy semi final second leg defeat against Wrexham.

Speaking of the Trophy, we give a lot of love to North Ferriby United, and try and even it out a bit by wishing Wrexham luck as they aim to celebrate their 150th anniversary by lifting non league’s most prestigious prize.

After all that, there is still time for me to usurp Ranty Robo (although he does get in on the act), when we cover the situation at Kidderminster Harriers.

There’s also the goalkeeper who has retired at the grand old age of twenty to become a car salesman, the Northern Premier League’s club of the month awards, and hattrick watch. And there’s an exciting announcement about next week’s show.

To listen to the podcast, or download the audio, visit the show’s website. Better still, subscribe via iTunes and never miss another episode. And while you’re there, please consider leaving a rating and review, as it helps to get new listeners on board.

Thanks!

Tipped for Glory 2014-15: Conference Premier

The new season is almost here! It’s been a summer of football, with the World Cup in Brazil filling the void until the real business of the nonleague season begins again. Most teams are now at least two weeks and one game into their preseason programme, and attention begins to focus on the second weekend in August, and that first league game.

Managers (hopefully) have assembled the bulk of their squads by now, with just one or two additions to be made, probably based on performances in friendlies. Chairmen are hoping that their managers have used their given budgets wisely, building a group of players that can meet – and even exceed – the clubs’ ambitions and aims for the coming campaign.

As for us fans, well this is the time of the year we get to dream. Dream about promotion, a cup run, or even surviving relegation if deep down we know that’s the end of the table we are most likely to find ourselves for the duration of the season. Whatever hopes and dreams we have, inevitably some will be met, some will be exceeded, and some will fall short.

Which brings me to my predictions for the season ahead. Those of you who listen to the Non League Podcast (episode 41 specifically) will be aware who I’ve tipped for glory. However, I thought I would put them in writing.

The Conference Premier is arguably the hardest division to get out of at any level of the game, and is a fascinating ecosystem. Clubs on their way up through the leagues come face to face with teams going very much in the opposite direction. It is always nigh on impossible to predict who will win the title, and with it the solitary automatic promotion place to the Football League. It is even harder to try and say who will finish in the playoffs or get relegated. So much can – and invariably does – happen on and off the pitch over the course of the season, that it ends up making a mockery of most “experts” predictions! Mine will probably be no different!

Wrexham_FCMy choice for the winners of nonleague’s top flight are Wrexham. Like last season’s champions Luton Town, they have been in the division for a few years now, having fallen through the League Two trapdoor in 2008. Manager Kevin Wilkin succeeded Andy Morrell in March, and has set about assembling a squad he thinks will take the club up. They have strengthened their attack ahead of the new season, bringing in Louis Moult from Nuneaton Town and Connor Jennings from Scunthorpe United. Both are excellent strikers at this level, and if they can form a good partnership straight away, it could spell trouble for the rest of the division. Add ths to an already decent squad, and for me it’s the Welsh club who will be celebrating next April.

Can Connor Jennings score the goals to take Wrexham up?

Can Connor Jennings score the goals to take Wrexham up?

However, there will be plenty of competition for The Dragons. Barnet, Forest Green Rovers, Lincoln City, Grimsby Town, Braintree Town and Kidderminster Harriers among others will all have their own promotion ambitions (although internal wrangling sat Kiddie could destabilise the club). And then there are the two clubs relegated from League Two. Bristol Rovers and Torquay United have come down purely because of their results on the pitch, rather than points deductions and financial difficulties. However, it has been nearly a quarter of a century since a side won promotion the season after relegation from the Football League (thanks to @essexfootie for the research help). Darlington achieved the feat in 1990, two years after Lincoln City were the first club to do it (the season after being the first club to be relegated from the Football League. So the task is an historically difficult one for The Gas and The Seagulls.

So, as usual the Conference Premier looks like it will be a very strong division, and a very tough one to win. I’ve picked Wrexham as my winners, but have also named another eight who will be looking to prove me wrong. And there will always be a team who surprise everyone (like FC Halifax last season).

Am I way off? Who do you predict will take the title? And who do you think will struggle this season? Get in touch and let me know. You can tweet me (@undertheleague), or email (undertheleague@gmail.com) and Facebook (facebook.com/undertheleague). Or you can leave a comment on this article.

Non League Podcast Episode 23 Available Now

This week’s Non League Podcast is now available for download. Titled “To Me, To You, To Me” we focus on the mini managerial merry-go-round from the past week, which saw Edgar Davids leave Barnet, while the goings-on at Kidderminster and Chester got us talking.

Also on the show, the usual news round-up, hattrick watch and our team(s) and player of the week. The And Finally this week looks at Brightlingsea Regent, the essex club who bought a new stand on eBay.

You can listen to the episode online, or download it on the podcast’s website, or subscribe to it on iTunes.

You can contribute to the show by suggesting a news item or story to talk about, or by submitting a hattrick to Libby’s hattrick watch. Just tweet us (links below) using #hattrickwatch and we will credit you on the show. Alternatively, email undertheleague@gmail.com .

As always, if you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, as this helps bring the show to a wider audience. If there’s anything you don’t like about the show, please email me so we can rectify any problems.

Follow the show and presenters on twitter:

@NonLeaguePod

@kwisstan

@TomSnee

@libsterclarke

@RabidRobo

@undertheleague

Non League Podcast Episode 22 Out Now

The latest episode of The Non League Podcast is now available to download. Rather cheekily entitled “Check Your Balls!”, there’s a lot to talk about, as I return after a week away to join Kristan and Rob. No Tom on this episode, as he was otherwise disposed. It still clocks in as our longest show yet, but we enjoyed it and hope you do too.

The top story this week is the bad news coming out of Edgar Street, as Hereford United are served with a winding-up petition. We debate what the best course of action could be, and the possible outcome when the case is heard later this month.

Also up for discussion:

  • Managerial changes at Kidderminster and Chester,
  • Team and Player of the week,
  • Sexuality in football,
  • Hattrick Watch (thanks as always to Libby for the research)
  • Male Uprising Guernsey’s charity photos

Plus all the usual banter and tangents! And make sure you stay to this week’s And Finally, as there’s a complete breakdown from all parties!

To contribute to the show, get in touch on twitter via the links below. To notify us of a hattrick in a game you’re at, make sure you include the hashtag #hattrickwatch.

To download or listen online, click here, or subscribe on iTunes.

The Show – @nonleaguepod

Kristan – @kwisstan

Tom – @TomSnee

Libby – @libsterclarke

Rob – @RabidRobo

Me – @undertheleague

Burr Leaves Kiddie

Kidderminster Harriers have announced that Steve Burr has left the club with immediate effect. In a statement on the club’s website, the board thank Burr “unreservedly” for his efforts whilst in charge, but will be making no further comment on the matter. Read the rest of this entry

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw – Not Great for NL Clubs

Just two Conference Premier clubs remain in this season’s FA Cup as we enter the fourth round stage, and by the time the ties get played, even they might not be left in the tournament.

Both Kidderminster Harriers and Macclesfield Town got excellent home draws to take their third round ties to replays, but in truth the draw for the fourth round hasn’t exactly given them reason to dream. In fairness to Kiddie, a potential trip to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light awaits should they be able to see off Peterborough at London Road after a goalless draw at Aggborough. While it is always better for the smaller side to get drawn away at a bigger club due to the 50-50 split in gate receipts, I’m sure Wearside probably wasn’t too high on the Harriers’ list of dream destinations.

Can Macc repeat Steve King's feat last season and reach the fourth round?

Can Macc repeat Steve King’s feat last season and reach the fourth round?

Meanwhile, Macclesfield have a potentially winnable game if they can somehow find a way past Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in their third round replay. Steve Williams’ well taken goal late on in the first match rescued a 1-1 draw for the cash strapped Silkmen. Manager John Askey even admitted to not going all out for the win towards the end of the game, stating that the club were desperate for the potential earnings from a replay. Assistant manager Efe Sodje has since said that the money generated will only keep the club going for the next couple of months. A trip to Rochdale in the fourth round would seem to vindicate the manager’s decision. A winnable tie? Absolutely, but would have been near the bottom of their wishlist in terms of paydays.

Here’s hoping that one or both of our nonleague sides can get through not only their replays, but also the fourth round too. It would be a shame for our presence in the cup to end with a whimper.

West Midlands Non-League in the FA Cup: Do the three remaining non-league sides stand a chance?

With Stourbridge, Tamworth and Kidderminster all still standing in the FA cup, all three sides face possible league opposition, so do they all have a chance of a possible giant killing?

Kidderminster – Their first round tie was a comfortable 4-1 over Conference South’s ‘Original Giant Killers’ Sutton United, but it looked like they might have been on their way out, as Sutton United took the lead 10 minutes in thanks to Charlie Clough. However, goals from Amari Morgan-Smith, Callum Gittings, Joe Lolley and Anthony Malburn sealed the win for Kiddie and put them into the 2nd round draw. Now, though, they have an incredibly tough tie against League rivals Braintree Town or the team that went up instead of them last season, League Two’s Newport County.  The game will be played at Aggborough, so if Newport County beat Braintree, then victory will be expected from Kiddie…

Stourbridge –  Stourbridge are the lowest-ranked side left in the competition and they made easy work of league rivals Biggleswade Town as they cruised to a 4-1 victory at the War Memorial Ground.  The Glassboys did take the lead thanks to Ryan Rowe, but the lead only lasted two minutes as Evan Key equalised for the Waders. However, it didn’t take long for Stourbridge to regain the lead as Rowe grabbed his second of the game three minutes later. Stourbridge guaranteed their place in the second round with two goals in the second half, as Will Richards and Luke Benbow got themselves onto the scoresheet. The Glassboys now have a tough away tie at League One outfits Stevenage and so with the spirit that Stourbridge have, there might be a surprise in store here…

Tamworth – Tamworth reach the second round for the third consecutive year as they beat League 2’s Cheltenham Town at the Lamb Ground. Tamworth scored the only goal of the game 20 minutes into the second half as Nick Chadwick scored the goal to put them into the hat for the second round. The Lambs got themselves another tie at home, this time against League One’s basement side Bristol City and with the strength and sheer power of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas up front for the Robins, this will be an incredibly tough affair for the Lambs, but anything is possible in the FA Cup.

So with the ties being announced, all three sides have tough opposition, and Stourbridge and Tamworth have a challenge with two of League One’s relegation flirters, while Kidderminster have, looking at the statistics, the easier tie out of the three, even though that cant really be said in a competitions with as many shocks as this.

The Harriers Are Flying High Again

They could be seen as the Cardiff City of non-league football; they either make the play offs or fall just short of making the cut into them and now this season they are sitting top of their league, or this season you may see them as being just as good as Barcelona or Manchester United as the Daily Mail recently showed the footballing world.

The town where they are based is more famous for producing carpets rather then their football. But, this season has seen the Worcestershire based club of Kidderminster Harriers making all the headlines coming out of the Midlands.

Steve Burr’s boys currently sit top of the Blue Square Premier, a feat which for the fans of Kidderminster feels remarkable but it is made even more so by the fact that the Harriers were rooted to the bottom of the table at the end of August with not even a single point to their name.

In fact their first win of the season came on 25th September when Kidderminster ran out 3-1 winners away at Cambridge, which saw them kick start their way up the league table.

They made it to just outside the play offs on the 22nd Decemeber when they trashed play off rivals Dartford 5-1 at Aggborough. The run up the table continued into the new year, only losing three times in 2013; once on New Year’s Day when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Hereford and away to Macclesfield before their next loss came in March, when they lost 2-0 at Gateshead.

The run they have had should surely makes them favourites to take the league, but the Harriers are victims of getting the games on while 2nd place Mansfield have two games in hand, which means the Stags are favourites for promotion. But surely Steve Burr’s men are in with a shout of the league title.

Anthony Malbon has been in fine form for Kiddie

Anthony Malbon has been in fine form for Kiddie

The Harriers have brought up a number of players from the lower leagues and they have starred for the Harriers – Anthony Malbon, Marvin Johnson, Ryan Rowe, Cheyeene Dunkley just some of the players who Burr has brought through into the Harriers first team after starting in Step Three.

But what has really helped the Harriers was in fact the sale of star play Jammile Matt in Janaury to league two side Fleetwood Town FC for a sum of £300,000, although the Harriers faithful thought that the sale of Jamma (as he is known) will probably hinder the club’s promotion bid. In fact it helped the Harriers.

The money they got for Jamma was helped to bring in on loan Greg Pearson from Grimsby and non-league predator Michael Gash who has been a star for Kidderminster as they attempt to make the step into the Football League.

With three games to go can the Harriers hold their nerves?

Hopefully for the long suffering Harriers faithful they can; they have seen the Harriers finish just outside the plays off in the last two seasons and the financial struggle in 2011. So It has not been all sunny skies at DY10 and I am sure they will be loving the season thus far.

My only worry for the Harriers is that if they fail to win the league and are cast into the play offs, they could do a Wrexham and fail to make it through to the Wembley showpiece final. However, with Wrexham there was a tinge of disappointment having challenged Fleetwood all the way to the title then to miss out.

At Aggborough yes the club will be disapointed not to go up but I am sure being in the play offs will be a bonus after the last few seasons they have had. But no one can deny that the Harriers do deserve their place in the Football League.

I have watched the Harriers a couple of times; the first time was away at Stockport County in October – the game was part of Non-league day and it was hard to say that the Harriers will be challenging at the top of the table as they sadly fell to a 1-0 loss, and although they were unlucky not to take a point that day it looked like it was going to be a long season for Steve Burr’s men. Fast forward to the visit of Tamworth to Aggborough and I was working in the press box for a website called Staffs Live, and the performance of the Harriers was not the same team that took on Stockport.

Although in some respect the Harriers 4-1 scoreline did flatter them the Lambs were unlucky not to come away with a point. Their finishing was clincial and you can see a massive turn around in fortune for the players.

From a personal point of view it would be really great for Kiddy to go up. I don’t think there is a club with a more friendly bunch of staff or fans then those at Aggborough and it will be great for them to reach the promise land of the Football League.

Follow Richard on twitter: @nonleaguerich