A RUTHLESS second-half display warmed the cockles on a bitterly cold January Saturday as fans’ chills were replaced by the dream of reaching a Wembley final.
Victory booked the Aggborough outfit into the last 16 of the FA Trophy and brought manager Steve Burr’s ambition of leading a team out onto English football’s spiritual home a step closer.
The win also exorcised the ghost of November’s FA Cup loss to Blue Square Bet North giant-killers Corby with a devastating demonstration of finishing which put their lower-level opponents to the sword.
There’s still a long way to go and many testing obstacles to cross but fans are allowed to dream of another trip to the capital.
Those hopes looked in jeopardy after a shaky first-half display, where Dave Pace’s slick Bloods team gave them a fright.
Dan Bradley, inset, who produced an eye-catching man-of-the-match display, seemed to have put the hosts on track to a comfortable victory in the seventh minute, when his low 25-yard effort caught out sluggish keeper Paul Phillips and nestled in the bottom left corner.
When Nick Wright’s thundering half-volley doubled the lead after fine work by skipper Mike Williams, Trophy progress looked a formality.
However, the Bloods might have been fragile at the back, yet they were slick going forward and took advantage of the space afforded to them by the home side.
Keeper Dean Lyness returned to the team after his FA Cup nightmare at Corby and settled his nerves with a fine stop to deny Steve Hall.
Ciaran Kilheeney signalled the visitors’ potency when he volleyed wide from a Lewis Killeen cross but the goal Droylsden deserved for their enterprise came near the end of the half with a well-worked free-kick move.
The home defence was caught out by Paul Marshall’s short pass and Dan Gardner delivered a pin-point left-wing cross, which Hall headed home at the far post.
But another cup shock was quickly eradicated as two goals in five minutes put Harriers in firm control in the second-half.
Jamille Matt, watched again by a host of scouts, including those from Crawley and Milwall, had a quiet game by his own recent high standards but when he rose majestically to meet Mickey Demetriou’s dipping free-kick, he headed home his 13th goal of a fruitful season in the 49th minute.
Bradley, who prowled hungrily behind Harriers’ front two, completed an impressive first home start when he won the ball in midfield and released Steve Guinan with a slide-rule pass and the veteran hitman clipped a cool shot over the diving Phillips.
The veteran goal-getter then made it eight for the campaign late on, converting from close range after the eye-catching Demetriou made a raid down the right and served up a tantalising delivery.
Afterwards, Burr was relieved to see his side recover so emphatically.
He said: “I am very pleased we’ve got through to the next round, I thought Droylsden deserved a lot of credit in the first-half.
“Our finishing was top class but in the first-half Droylsden were one of the best footballing sides I have seen at Aggborough this season.”
He added: “It’s an ambition of mine to take a team to Wembley and walk out with it there.
“We’ve still got an opportunity to do it this season and if we don’t do it this year I will try next season.”
Harriers: Lyness 6, Mike Williams 7, Hankin 6 (McQuilkin 46), Guinan 7, Wright 7, Sharpe 6, Briscoe 6, Matt 7 (Marc Williams 80), Demetriou 8, Storer 6 (Gittings, 73), BRADLEY 8. Subs not used: Checketts, Hurrell.
Droylsden: Phillips, Killeen, Holden, Langford, Kerr, Peyton (Gerrard 58), Marshall, Hall (Owen 79), Kilheeney, Johnson, Gardner (Rouse 46). Subs not used: Thompson, Lake.
Referee: Amy Fearn.