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,
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.
Referee: Scott Simpson.
Assistants: Richard Cattell, Greg Rollason.
Attendance: 2,201 (with 304 from Telford).