Tuesday, October 18, 2005

KIDDERMINSTER Harriers could do with reproducing last night's gritty LDV Vans Trophy display more often in the Nationwide Conference.

They got to grips with League Two mid-table side Darlington in a 2-1 northern section first round victory at Aggborough.

Though Darlington took a 16th-minute lead, Wayne Hatswell's header pulled Harriers level before the interval.

And the enterprising Gareth Sheldon was rewarded for an impressive personal performance with a spot-kick winner seven minutes from time.

It was the least Harriers deserved and they will have been relieved to avoid a tiresome extra-time period ahead of Saturday's important FA Cup fourth qualifying round clash at Southport.

Harriers and Darlington are 12th in their respective leagues but it was difficult to tell which played at the higher level.

Simon Russell had a good early opportunity for the hosts but his shot was deflected and Iyseden Christie headed the loose ball wide.

Harriers looked set for more home disappointment, following three defeats from four games at Aggborough, when Guylain Ndumbu-Nsunga fired the Quakers ahead with a penalty.

Skipper Mark Jackson gave the Congo-born striker the chance, up-ending diminutive midfielder Anthony Peacock.

Harriers replied with Russell and Hatswell both unleashing drives into the side-netting before Sheldon's audacious 35-yard lob was well read by goalkeeper Sam Russell.

However, Sheldon provided the equaliser on 44 minutes with the second of two crosses in quick succession.

His corner was met by Jackson only to be cleared off the line but the ex-Exeter forward centred again and Hatswell buried a free close-range header.

Hatswell's third goal of the season was perfectly timed and Harriers went on to boss much of the second-half.

Despite the withdrawal of Martin O'Connor at the break, the industrious midfield of Terry Fleming, Laurie Wilson, Simon Heslop and Russell kept Harriers ticking.

Sheldon continued to threaten, hitting the post with a superb free-kick on 59 minutes and then forcing a diving save from Russell.

Though Darlington sub Akpo Sodje fired a rare visitors' chance wide, Sheldon bagged the winning penalty after Shelton Martis handled his corner.

Russell nearly capped the win when his superb late 20-yard volley hit the bar.

HARRIERS: Lewis; Evans, Jackson, Burgess, Hatswell; Heslop, O'Connor (Wilson 46), Fleming, Russell; Sheldon, Christie. Subs not used: Danby, Burton, Hurren, Thompson.