|Season 5 - Kidderminster|
|Written by Terry|
|Sunday, 04 November 2012 11:14|
Kidderminster Harriers v Oldham Athletic – FA Cup Rd 1
Aggborough Stadium, Kidderminster
Saturday 3rd November 2012, 15:00 K.O.
When I worked at Oldham Town Hall in 1965, I went to Kidderminster for a job interview. I didn’t take the job and the Harriers didn’t become my adopted team, whilst remaining a Latics supporter. After several jobs in the Midlands, I ended up in Burton-on-Trent and Burton Albion fell into that role.
I’ve taken an interest in Kidderminster Harriers ever since 1987, when I saw them play The Brewers at Wembley Stadium in the FA Trophy Final. After a 0-0 draw, I also saw them win the replay 2-1 (after extra time) at the Hawthorns.
The 1993-94 season proved to be Kidderminster's most successful one, when the Club shot to national fame, reaching the FA Cup Fifth Round (the record for a Non-League club), after defeating Birmingham City at St. Andrews and Preston North End at Aggborough.
With the addition of temporary seating, a crowd of almost 8,000 packed into Aggborough to see Harriers lose 1-0 to West Ham United. However, when Kidderminster clinched the Vauxhall Conference title for the first time in their history in the same year, they were denied a place in the Football League after it was deemed that, although the ground had been satisfactory to hold 8,000, the Club had not met the required ground improvements. That apparent injustice resulted in my having a soft spot for the Harriers ever since.
At the turn of the millennium, under the stewardship of former Liverpool legend and Danish Scouser Jan Molby, Harriers clinched promotion to the Football League in 2000, where they enjoyed five seasons.
These days Aggborough stadium is an arena to be proud of, and I was excited at the prospect of Latics taking on the Harriers there in this season’s first round of the world’s greatest cup competition. The romance of the FA Cup fascinates me – the last time Latics played in it was at Anfield, in the role of underdog, but now a potential ‘banana-skin’ awaited along Hoo Road, with the Harriers out to avenge a 5-0 first round F.A. Cup defeat at Boundary Park in 1907, watched by a 14,000 strong crowd – them wer’t days!
Picture courtesy of the Kidderminster Shuttle’s match preview, which included a reference to the Ernie Flag.
Harriers were playing in the Birmingham League and Latics finished top of Lancashire Combination ‘A’ (containing twenty clubs fourteen of which were Football league clubs’ reserve sides), scoring 150 goals in all competitions.
Picture courtesy of the book ‘The Team From A Town Of Chimneys Revisited’ by Stewart W. Beckett
In a town famous for carpet production, even though the remnants of that industry are threadbare these days, no doubt as the locals rolled-up for today’s match, they were envisaging headlines like: ‘Harriers pile on pressure as Oldham carpeted’, ‘Rug pulled from under Latics’, ‘Harriers wipe the floor with Latics’, etc. I was hoping that Dickov and Taggart had done their best in planning and estimating, in order to get a grip on the tie, eliminate the static and those short-roll back-passes (making a stair-rod for their own back), and twist and weave intricate broadloom patterns with the ball on the floor, to cushion and be stain-resistant to any cup upset.
Rumours of potential FA Cup benefits like the game being shown on TV, and the Inspiral Carpets performing prior to the kick-off, had proved to be warped yarns.
In researching the town’s pubs, I discovered that earlier this year, a local prankster changed the name of The Grand Turk, one of the town’s disused pubs, when renovating the 156-year-old building.
A 75-minute drive, via a route skirting round my old workplaces of Sutton Coldfield and West Bromwich, saw Margaret and I parked up at Aggborough just after 11:00am.
With nobody to be seen outside the stadium the task of capturing the picture of the Flag, with the Club’s iconic name-sign background, was made easy when two extra pairs of hands appeared in the form of Dean (the brains behind the ‘Latics for Life’ season tickets for children scheme) and his dad.
This proved to be a good move, because when we came back for the match the above view was blocked by a police van.
The Club’s facilities are very impressive and, hopefully, what we can look forward to one day at Boundary Park – a function suite, a pub and a social & supporters’ club.
A short walk took us along the streets round the back of the stadium to the preserved Severn Valley steam railway line terminus, celebrating its 150th anniversary.
The King & Castle pub was very welcoming in the re-created Edwardian station refreshment room, with steam trains outside and railway memorabilia and photographs inside. Its real ale selection included Piddle Royal, named after a village near where the River Avon is joined by the Piddle Brook, and where the home-brewed beer is called Piddle in The Hole – an expression well-known to Latics fans travelling by mini-bus.
We were joined by Paul, who had come from South Wales by train via Hereford. We had lunch in the station’s refreshment room and the Edwardian appearance of the station was enhanced when a bride, groom and their wedding guests arrived in period costume for drinks before departing for lunch on the 2:40pm steam train to Bridgnorth.
We crossed the road from the stadium to the Railway Bell pub, which was doing brisk business with rail-travelling Latics fans. Paul’s dad and brother joined us, having been unable to find us amongst the wedding guests in the station bar.
According to a BBC survey, the £4 cottage pies on sale at Aggborough are the most expensive in the country, but because they are made of meat, vegetables and potatoes, rather than the usual pastry pie sold at other grounds, they are generally considered to be the tastiest and good value for money as they are "more like a dinner", weighing 1lb 8oz (700g). When Nigel Clough was manager of Burton Albion he always used to order them for his squad after games. Last week at Crawley Town, Ian Hands, the operator of the Club’s programme and memorabilia shop, said what he missed most about Crawley having left the Conference was the home-made soup and cottage pies at Kidderminster. I interrupted a Latics supporter as he anticipated his first taste of ‘football’s best pie’.
Harriers’ Boss, Steve Burr, said on BBC TV that he would buy his squad a pie each if they beat Latics. Whether our lads were on the same incentive was unknown, but the determination of Latics manager Paul Dickov to take this match as seriously as possible was indicated by his decision to extend Matt Derbyshire’s loan from Nottingham Forest, rather than wait until after the match in the hope of squeezing in an extra game or two in his 93-day loan period. The one change from last week’s squad was the inclusion of 18-year-old scholar Joe Cooper to provide added central-defensive cover in the absence of Jean-Yves M'voto who started a three-match ban, for which he had apologised publicly during the week.
Looking round the stadium, anyone in the property market looking for a quick transaction may have been put off by the name of one of the advertisers.
Latics started the first half brightly and played some neat football, creating several chances that were either saved or wasted. This season’s list of goals disallowed for offside was added to in the 25th minute when Matt Derbyshire’s close range effort was ruled out. Towards the end of the first half Harriers looked more threatening as Latics defence was called on to block several shots.
Harriers carried that momentum into the second half and, after some pressure, Dean Bouzanis was called on to make a great save tipping over the bar Malbon’s strong header. But then Latics started to show how they can play. Montano made up for a terrible miss moments later when he lashed home after being set up by Baxter. “Who needs Ronaldo, we‘ve got Montano!”
There was a long delay when Cliff Byrne was injured, after keeper Bouzanis collided with him, and had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Connor Brown and any doubts about that weakening Latics were set aside as they made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The home defence stood motionless as keeper Vaughan allowed Baxter's cunning free-kick from the left to squeeze into the back of the net just inside the near post.
I managed to capture the goal, as the 662 Latics supporters in the 2,888 crowd went wild, and all twenty identical choruses of the ‘José Baxter Baby’ song were sung for most of the remainder of the match.
Harriers tried to hit back and substitute Marvin Johnson drove into the box but smashed his shot into the side netting. The underdogs put in a tremendous effort to reduce the deficit with a series of free kicks and corners, and during the seven minutes of added time they were furious when their claim for a penalty, after Connor Brown seemed to handle Ryan Rowe's shot, was ignored by the referee. From then onwards the Latics contingent shouted “Hand-ball!” in jest whenever the ball went near any player for the rest of the game. In fact the joke continued as fans were leaving the stadium.
So in the end the potential banana skin was avoided and Harriers’ hopes of an upset proved to be pie in the sky.
It was a great day out and the Harriers’ officials and supporters were very hospitable, apart from the misguided home chanters who did not know that Lee Croft had been cleared of the false claim made against him at Sheffield United – a pity that news was not given the same national coverage as the accusation.
No doubt on the coach back to Oldham, Manager Paul Dickov would commence the belated celebration of his 40th birthday, delayed from Thursday – Birthday greetings Paul from your Blue & White Army!
Que Será Será
Whatever will be, will be
We’re going to Wemberley
Que Será Será .
For more pictures see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157631919744979/
|Last Updated on Sunday, 04 November 2012 17:33|