Tuesday, February 22, 2005

KIDDERMINSTER Harriers' first draw under Stuart Watkiss was not exactly what the doctor ordered on a night when both their relegation rivals won.

Harriers, who last tied a game on October 2 at home to Cambridge United, could not be faulted for their endeavour but were once again cursing a defensive slip-up.

As Rushden and Diamonds and Cambridge United triumphed, the point at home to Bristol Rovers kept Kidderminster second-from-bottom but they are now effectively eight away from safety.

Last night's game could have gone either way though Harriers were aggrieved not to score more goals against an out-of-sorts Rovers side after having much the better of the first-half.

Blair Sturrock finished calmly on 29 minutes to put them ahead following great work by right-back Johnny Mullins who won the ball on the half-way line and then slid a fine pass through.

However, an end-to-end encounter at snowy Aggborough saw Junior Agogo ghost in goal-side of Simon Weaver from Richard Walker's flick-on in the 53rd minute and fire through John Danby's legs.

Boss Watkiss still believes his players are lacking "football common sense" but was heartened by the draw that broke up a poor run of three straight defeats.

Watkiss said: "I said to the players there's absolutely no way we can fault your effort, commitment and application. You just have to sometimes question our football common sense.

"We were much the better team in the first-half. I heard Ian Atkins say after 44 minutes to his bench that they were being completely out-battled, which was right, but we basically out-played them. We had many chances and more than one should have gone in.

"We said at half-time it's a good 45 minutes but that's all it is. I need a good 90. In the second-half, we stopped doing what served us so well in the first-half which was basic lower league football.

"I don't quite understand why we stopped it in the second-half. Bristol have stepped it up after the break and they had three or four good chances.

"It's frustrating because I know we're close. If we can just improve our football common sense, then we've got a chance. Obviously, a couple of results have gone against us but we have to take heart from the point."

Harriers did have the better of the first-half chances as their front two of Sturrock and Chris Beardsley worked tirelessly to trouble Rovers.

Sturrock and John McGrath shot too close to keeper Kevin Miller, while Bertrand Cozic and Beardsley sent headers wide.

Miller saved his best for a smart block from Tom Bennett's powerful low drive on 24 minutes as Rovers' shaky defence creaked before Sturrock buried the opener.

But, in contrast, Rovers were unlucky not to score more than Agogo's equaliser in the second period with Danby pulling off terrific saves from the goalscorer and strike partner Walker.

And Agogo thumped a 20-yarder against the Harriers left-hand post on 70 minutes with Harriers again showing their fragile confidence by losing their grip on a contest for the second match in a row.

Harriers: Danby 7; Mullins 6 (Jenkins 66, 6), Weaver 5, Jackson 6, Hatswell 5; Cozic 6, Bennett 5, Keates 6, McGrath 6; *Beardsley 8, Sturrock 7. Subs not used: Lewis, Jones, Foster, Russell.

Attendance: 2,082.