Saturday, December 17, 2005

THERE were several big questions to be answered after Kidderminster Harriers slaughtered Scarborough in the FA Trophy first round to deservedly record their biggest win of the season.

Firstly, was this Aggborough performance just waiting to happen under Stuart Watkiss or has caretaker-boss Martin O'Connor really brought about this much of an improvement?

It is worth remembering Harriers romped to a 3-0 LDV Vans Trophy shock at Boston United less than two weeks before Watkiss was dismissed, so maybe the club's board acted rather hastily.

But, of course, the crucial poser is whether Harriers can reproduce this kind of performance in the next game with Bradford City tomorrow and, more importantly, in their flagging Nationwide Conference campaign.

Poor Scarborough, themselves struggling in the Conference, did not know what had hit them on Saturday as hearty Harriers raced out of the blocks with the kind of energetic opening that has been so often missing.

The Seadogs, a bag of nerves at the back, were clearly there for the taking but a pleasing aspect was that Harriers did not just sink to their opponents' level as has been all too common this season.

Instead, they tore into their opponents like a pack of hungry wolves, winning their individual battles and intelligently feeding the persistent, pacey strike duo of Lee Thompson and Iyseden Christie.

O'Connor admitted: "One thing we can say for sure is that we, as a team, have never started matches well enough this season. We've been notoriously slow-starters.

"It's something we spoke about before the game and I said I wanted the lads to go out there and pick up that tempo level straight from the off and that's exactly what they did.

"I asked them to put in a good showing and that's what I got -- they couldn't have really done much more.

"More than anything, I'm just proud to be part of Kidderminster Harriers. We've put on a real show for the people out there."

Thompson, enjoying a run of games up front, proved to be arguably the star of the show and was involved heavily as Harriers hit the bar twice in the first six minutes.

The former Boston man sprinted down the left, pulling the ball back for Christie who allowed it to run and Russ Penn struck the woodwork from 18 yards. Soon after, right-sided midfielder Simon Heslop strode forward to again strike the bar from further out.

Unfortunate Harriers created their own luck by continuing to stream forward, inspired by the no-nonsense defending of skipper Mark Jackson and central midfield duo Penn and Terry Fleming.

Thompson earned his reward, nodding in a first goal for the club on 14 minutes after 'keeper Ian Dunbavin parried Jackson's header from a Fleming corner.

Ten minutes later, right-back Patrick Flynn delivered an excellent cross which Michael Blackwood guided home with his head.

And Harriers extended their advantage three minutes before half-time when Christie, back from a brief injury lay-off, glanced in his 11th goal of the season from Fleming's in-swinging free-kick.

They did not allow Scarborough to gain a foothold in the game and Heslop ensured the victory after winning a penalty for a shirt-pulling offence.

Jackson's spot-kick was saved but Heslop tucked away the rebound. Only good stops from Dunbavin prevented Blackwood and Wayne Hatswell adding to the tally.

Sub Ian Clark missed Scarborough's best chance after failing to take advantage when 'keeper Daniel Lewis spilled Ashley Lyth's long-range effort.

If O'Connor can bring about consistency then the Harriers board may have the ideal managerial candidate on their doorstep.

HARRIERS: Lewis; Flynn, Jackson, Mullins (Hurren 90), Hatswell; Heslop (Sheldon 72), Penn, Fleming, Blackwood; Thompson, Christie. Subs not used: Danby, Burgess, Atieno.