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Play-off miss put into perspective by Malbon injury scare
5:59pm Wednesday 2nd May 2012 in Reports
HARRIERS’ dashed promotion hope was put into perspective as the club rallied behind injured striker Anthony Malbon, who was flown to hospital after a serious scare on Saturday.
The play-off dreams in the Blue Square Bet Premier may have came to an end as Luton picked up a surprise 2-0 win at Fleetwood and Mansfield ruthlessly took advantage of Lee Vaughan’s dismissal early in the second-half.
But the club can be proud of the way it reacted when 21-year-old Malbon was left unconscious after a clumsy body check by Mansfield winger Louis Briscoe.
A swift response by team doctor Phil Earl and physio Gavin Crowe mid-way through the second-half ensured the young goal-getter was conscious when taken by air ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where after being thoroughly checked out he was given the all-clear and discharged.
Harriers fans were excellent too, with a dedicated core waiting patiently outside the ground as the helicopter landed on the Aggborough pitch.
They then happily waited until the helicopter’s departure and re-entered the stadium to give Harriers players a rousing round of applause for their efforts after another action-packed campaign.
Their dedication was all the more impressive as they had watched another brave but ultimately unsuccessful push for the play-offs come to an end.
To Harriers credit, they had produced a fine finish to keep the dream alive until the final day of the season. If you had asked many supporters after the deflating defeat at Telford and they would have snapped your hands off for such a chance.
But the Stags, who had already wrapped up third spot with a phenomenal run of their own, spoiled the party.
The first-half had been an evenly-balanced affair, as the biggest home crowd of the campaign created a cracking atmosphere.
Malbon came close twice, hooking one effort wide after good work by Ryan Rowe, before steering a right-footed effort wide of the far post.
But Mansfield looked dangerous too, with juggernaut centre-forward Matt Rhead’s physical presence ruffling the home defence.
The big striker showed skill with a deft chip from the edge of the box which keeper Tony Breeden clawed off the line.
Breeden produced more heroics near the end of the period showing razor sharp reactions to block Lee Stevenson’s snapshot.
If Harriers’ keeper was demonstrating his ability his opposite number Shane Redmond enjoyed a huge slice of luck.
Under pressure from Rowe after a back pass left him in trouble, the Mansfield custodian dived to smother the ball and the ball went for corner.
Harriers were reduced to 10 men two minutes into the second-half as Vaughan caught Rhead in the head with an elbow as he tried to get over the hitman’s massive frame and was shown a straight red card.
The home side plugged away but Vaughan’s absence was immediately felt, despite James Vincent dropping back diligently to right-back, when Stevenson raced down the onto Rhead’s pass and lashed a shot past Breeden.
Marvin Johnson then came closest to scoring for the Aggborough side, forcing Redmond into two saves.
But then Briscoe put his mark on the proceedings.
First, he went recklessly clattering into rookie striker Malbon leaving him sprawled on the floor and escaped with a booking.
And to rub salt into the wounds, he then met Stevenson’s centre to head the ball beyond Breeden and end Harriers’ hopes of victory and a possible place in the top-five.
But news flitering through Luton were winning at Fleetwood, the Football League aspirations were over, before Stags substitute Matt Green wrapped up the win despite Luke Jones’ best attempts to clear off the line.
Despite the defeat, Harriers finished sixth for the third time in four years and once again pushed teams with far greater budgets all the way.
Harriers: Breeden 7, Williams 7, Jones 7, Marshall 6, Hankin 6 (Byrne 51), Vincent 7, Rowe 7, Storer 7 (Bradley 62), Malbon 7 (Wright 69), Johnson 7. Subs not used: Guinan, Lyness.
Mansfield: Redmond, O’Neill (Sutton 73), Riley, Worthington, Roberts, Briscoe (Hutchinson 78), Todd, Stevenson, Thompson, Andrew (Green 82). Subs not used: Marriott, Miekle.
Referee: Jez Simpson (Lancaster). Attendance: 3,565 (674)