FOR the first time in more than two months, Harriers enjoyed the comforts of home with a hard-working win on Saturday.
Steve Burr’s troops have endured a frustrating period at their Hoo Road base since seeing off Droylsden in the FA Trophy in January 14.
A run of five Blue Square Bet Premier games without a home victory had tested the patience of the fans who don’t always get a chance to see how wonderfully effervescent Harriers are on the road.
While this win was not the most flowing, the display was refreshingly solid and just what was required after a difficult few months It was the troubled Quakers who struck first. Darlington, who
have been ravaged by their financial woes, fielded a side that concentrated on the basics and were keen to stop Harriers playing.
The Aggborough men were caught out when Aaron Brown’s long throw-in was flicked on by Drewe Broughton, and Ryan Bowman headed the ball over keeper Tony Breeden in the 17th minute.
The goal roused Harriers into life and Anthony Malbon saw a header from six yards go wide.
Midfielder Dave Hankin, pictured inset, who has endured a frustrating time at Aggborough but he provided the leveller.
Lee Vaughan delivered from the right and after Tom Marshall’s shot cannoned off a defender the midfielder calmly side-footed the ball into the bottom left corner.
They could have been ahead by the break with more luck.
Jack Byrne flashed a firm volley straight into the arms of Jordan Pickford, who then showed fine reflexes to turn Marvin Johnson’s stinging left-footed effort behind.
But it wasn’t until the 54th-minute that Harriers fans were off their feet celebrating the goal they had been craving.
Steve Guinan and Hankin combined to free Malbon on the right. He showed his strength to hold off a defender and slip a right-footed effort past Pickford, for his fifth goal of the season
Darlington, who had done their best to try and break Harriers’ rhythm by winning a succession of free-kicks, nearly found an equaliser when substitute Adam Rundle supplied a fine cross but
Broughton headed wide at the far post.
But the win was secured in the 89th minute in the most satisfying way possible.
Substitute Ryan Rowe had been on the pitch only 60 seconds when he pounced on James Vincent’s backheel and fired in a right-footed shot which deflected off a defender and wrong-footed Pickford.
The strike, his first since joining the club from Stourbridge for a five-figure fee in February, was celebrated with gusto by Rowe’s team-mates and the home fans behind the goal.
“I am relieved to have got the first goal, it came as a crucial time and hopefully I can kick on and get some more before the end of the season,” said the Cookley-based striker.
The hitman’s first goal was not the only thing worth celebrating, as seven points from the last three matches kept Harriers slim play-off hopes alive and kicking.
Burr said: “We’re still in there and it was good to get all three points. Darlington are having a few problems but if you look at their team sheet they have a few experienced players and they’re a
hard side to break down.
“I thought we started off well but we got undone by a long throw, it was a good goal for their dug out but a bad one from ours.
“I thought we were doing okay. We created a few great chances in the first-half but in the end we got the breaks in the second period and went onto win the game.
“I was pleased Ryan (Rowe) got off the mark, that will give him a big lift.”
Harriers: Breeden 7, Vaughan 7, JONES 8, Marshall 7, Hankin 7 (Wright 90+1), Guinan 7 (Rowe 88), Byrne 6, Demetriou 6, Storer 6, Malbon 7 (Vincent 79), Johnson 7. Subs not used: Williams; Lyness.
Darlington: Pickford, Arnison, Brown, Johnson, Keltie, Taylor (Rundle 66), Broughton, Bowman, McReady (Ramshaw 84), Hollis, Wainwright. Subs not used: Nixon, Lambert, Ferguson.
Referee: Jez Simpson (Lanc). Attendance: 1,635.