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Kidderminster Harriers match report
Andre and Andre seal Harriers win as Bucks challenge peters out

The Bucks haven’t fared well in New Year’s Day fixtures for a number of years, and alas 2018 wasn’t the year when they were able to break a winless sequence that now extends to ten years and a 4-1 home win over Tamworth in 2008. Rob Edwards’ side got through a tremendous amount of work, but too often they were doing so in defence, rather than attack, and they were undone by Kidderminster’s additional quality.

There was one team change from the goalless draw between the two sides six days earlier, Anthony Dwyer dropping to the bench and Max Leonard restored to the starting line-up. John Eustace’s Harriers team looked to test the Bucks’ defence first, and in Emmanuel Sonupe they possessed a player whose pace and direct running on the right looked set to give Ryan Wilson a tough afternoon. In the other direction, the Bucks chose to employ Marcus Dinanga in an attacking position on the right flank, pitting him against former Buck Sam Austin in a less than familiar left-back role. Both Sonupe and Dinanga gave early notice of their intentions, and the former won a dangerous attacking free-kick on 9 minutes; from McQuilkin’s delivery, defender James Pearson rose highest under challenge to hear well over Jaz Singh’s crossbar.

The Bucks replied with a swift move from which Dinanga tried to set up Sylvan Ebanks-Blake from John Marsden’s left-wing cross, Harriers snuffing out the danger. Sonupe was then at it again, firing in a low centre that Shane Sutton intercepted; Singh had to be alert to hold onto the ball as it ricocheted off the captain 8-10 yards from goal, thankfully straight at the keeper. Sonupe then took a knock that required treatment but was able to return to the action, albeit only for a few more minutes. Singh had to save well, conceding a corner, when Ngwatala dug out a shot from the edge of the area, and from the resulting kick Wilson had to clear off his goal-line, the ball headed back across goal with Singh unable to claim it.

Dinanga was comfortably winning his duel with Austin, but too frequently was unable to deliver a telling final ball. He won a free-kick against Austin on 23 minutes but the Bucks were unable to use the opportunity, then just a minute or so later he waltzed away from the full-back but saw his dangerous ball from the right intercepted before it got to a waiting Ebanks-Blake. Austin then benefitted from team-mate Sonupe’s misfortune; the right-winger was unable to continue after his earlier injury, and Austin was switched to his position, with regular full-back Joel Taylor coming on as a substitute, tasked with halting Dinanga.

Another free-kick opportunity for the Bucks came on 27 minutes, Marsden fouled by Croasdale. Unfortunately, Wilson’s delivery, left by Johnson, couldn’t be reached by Sutton at the far post. Harriers then broke following another Bucks’ attack that broke down and Singh once more had to be alert to turn another Ngwatala effort around the post. The Bucks defended the kick and the game fell into a spell where both sides were able to deal with the opposition in relative comfort. Whether the Bucks felt they’d ridden out the Harriers’ efforts and dropped their concentration is unclear, but on 40 minutes the home side went ahead. Ngwatala was again the threat down the left and his inviting low centre cut out the Bucks defence for the predatory Andre Brown to net from close range.

That came as a blow to the Bucks, and before the break the situation almost worsened. Harriers’ right-back James Pearson surged forward in support of his forwards and burst into the box; Connor Johnson, with arms outstretched, impeded his run by appearing to run across him, and Pearson tumbled. Home fans and players alike yelled for a penalty kick but referee Scott Simpson waved away their claims. The Bucks breathed a sigh of relief; had it been given there could have been few complaints, but instead the margin remained just one goal at the break.

HALF TIME: Kidderminster Harriers 1 AFC Telford United 0

The home side were quickly back at it after the interval and, with Andre Wright on for scorer Brown, forced an early corner through Taylor after Austin saw his initial shot charged down. The Bucks dealt with that threat but the red and white tide was becoming stronger, and after a McQuilkin free-kick was cleared for a corner Austin collected a half-clearance before firing a shot high and wide.

On 55 minutes, home full-back Taylor, overlapping on the left, got into the penalty area and went to ground. More loud penalty appeals followed but rather than seeing their wish granted, the home fans were outraged by referee Simpson’s decision to caution Taylor for simulation. The Bucks’ forays into the Harriers half were becoming rarer, but when Marsden burst forwards and was held up 25 yards out the ball fell to Dinanga; the Bucks’ top scorer pivoted to hit a sweetly-struck effort no more than a foot or two wide of the top left-hand corner of Hall’s net.

Around the hour mark Hall was busy again, getting down well to hold a low driven effort from Marsden, then racing to the edge of his box to kick clear as Ebanks-Blake pursued a ball into the Harriers half. The Bucks fans behind Hall’s goal were doing their level best to inspire their team, and on 65 minutes they saw Johnson head a free-kick, given for a foul on Leonard, headed wide. Leonard made way for Elliot Newby soon after, as Rob Edwards sought a combination that might find a route back into the game. However, as the Bucks committed a little more in attack the gaps started to open elsewhere.

On 68 minutes Liam Truslove went to ground in the box under a challenge, but again the referee saw no infringement, sparking much derision from the home crowd. Minutes later, Taylor, booked for diving earlier, did win a free-kick that saw Sutton booked, the full-back trying to maintain his forward motion as Sutton caught him on the edge of the penalty area. The resulting kick was one needing more work on the training ground, as McQuilkin, trying to set up a shot, only ended up playing a team-mate into trouble, allowing Marsden to rob him of the ball. They were soon to have the last laugh, however.

On 73 minutes, a Bucks attack broke down, Cowans losing possession, and Truslove was given room down the centre of the field in which to make progress with the ball. He struck a firm shot from 25 yards that Singh stopped but couldn’t hold, with a suggestion it took a slight deflection. The Bucks’ rear-guard weren’t quick enough to react and Wright beat Singh to the rebound to slide the ball home and seal the points.

Edwards replaced the tiring Dinanga with Jordan Murphy, a former Harrier; booed by a few home fans on his introduction, he almost made them pay when he got on the end of a long ball downfield and held off a defender before firing in a shot from the left that Hall did well to parry. Barely a minute later he was involved again when, darting infield from the left touchline, he set up Newby to rattle the crossbar with a 20-yard shot across Hall. The Bucks were to come no closer to scoring than that, and there were no further major incidents in the final ten minutes, save for a yellow card for Connor Johnson.

At the whistle, the Harriers celebrated a victory which they had been made to work hard for, but ultimately had deserved.

FULL TIME: Kidderminster Harriers 2 AFC Telford United 0

Bucks: Singh, White, Wilson, Johnson, Sutton (c), Lussey, Leonard (Newby 65), Cowans (Dwyer 88), Ebanks-Blake, Marsden, Dinanga (Murphy 76).

Unused subs: Simpson, Royle.

Bookings: Sutton, Johnson.

Kidderminster Harriers: Hall, Pearson, Austin, Croasdale, Horsfall, O’Connor, Sonupe (Taylor 26), McQuilkin, Brown (Wright 45), Ngwatala, Truslove (Williams 86).

Unused subs: Smith, Palmer.

Bookings: Taylor.

Referee: Scott Simpson.

Assistants: Richard Cattell, Greg Rollason.

Attendance: 2,201 (with 304 from Telford).

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