Saturday, August 13

TAIWO Atieno instantly became a hero with Kidderminster Harriers' fans after a stunning 11-minute debut against Woking transformed the match.

For all their impressive passing football and speed to the ball on a greasy pitch, Harriers were struggling after handing visiting hot-shot Justin Richards a goal on a plate in the 54th minute.

But on came 20-year-old loan signing Atieno to combine superbly with Iyseden Christie and bag two goals, including a confident penalty, to win the Nationwide Conference opener 2-1 in driving rain.

Harriers had previously toiled for little reward with the front three of Michael Blackwood, Christie and Simon Russell looking good individually without linking up as a strike-force.

Atieno changed that by putting a finishing touch on the home craft and his winning goal in injury-time -- a 17-yard header -- was a majestic finish.

Manager Stuart Watkiss was delighted with the "brave" performance without getting carried away at just one win in a long, hard season.

Watkiss admitted: "I define brave football as footballers who, in the heat of the battle, are willing to put their foot on the ball and start passing movements off.

"I thought in the first-half our play was really good. We got it out from the back into good areas and really all that was missing was a goal.

"Again we go back to us not getting on the end of crosses and maybe being more ruthless in our finishing. But we deserved to win the game. Woking played their part in what I thought would have been a good game to watch for the neutral."

Goalkeeper John Danby may want to forget Saturday after being at fault for the goal but he did make a crucial save in the first-half to deny Woking danger man Richards.

While a Terry Fleming 30-yarder and Michael Blackwood header went close, they did not bother Woking's Baghdad-born goalkeeper Shwan Jalal.

However, Watkiss was cursing on the sidelines in the 54th minute as Danby dithered over a loose ball in a mix-up with his centre-halves and Richards tapped in an easy goal.

The Harriers' boss admitted: "Nine times out of 10 I think you are looking for your goalkeeper to wipe everybody out to come and get the ball."

Christie, always a threat, saw a header cleared off the line before the introduction of Gareth Sheldon and Atieno in the last 15 minutes freshened up Harriers' attacking approach.

It was perfect timing for Watkiss as Atieno supplied Christie with just eight minutes left and Liam Cockerill fouled the striker as he was about to pull the trigger in front of goal. Atieno coolly tucked away the penalty into the bottom corner.

The target man then connected with Wayne Hatswell's left-wing cross and sent a powerful, looping header over Jalal.

Harriers: Danby; Evans, Jackson, Burgess, Hatswell; Fleming, O'Connor, Thompson (Atieno 79); Russell (Sheldon 76), Christie, Blackwood. Subs not used: Lewis, Burton, Wilson.

Attendance: 1,926 (200 away fans).