Monday, December 26, 2005

MARTIN O'Connor admitted one point at home to fellow strugglers Altrincham yesterday was not good enough.

The Kidderminster Harriers caretaker-boss was unhappy with his players' second-half display which offered the visitors a way back into the Conference encounter.

In the end, the Aggborough draw proved a tale of two controversial penalties awarded by Derbyshire referee Robert Shoebridge.

Striker Iyseden Christie rammed home the first for unchanged Harriers on 22 minutes following a harsh hand-ball award against Altrincham centre-half Mark Maddox from a Simon Heslop cross.

But then skipper Mark Jackson was penalised for a challenge milked by sub Kieran Lugsden and Stephen Aspinall fired in the deserved spot-kick equaliser 11 minutes from time.

It ensured an uninspiring clash, the first between the old non-league rivals for more than five years since Harriers were promoted and Altrincham relegated, ended in stalemate.

They will try again at Moss Lane in the return fixture next Monday when lowly Kidderminster must avoid defeat or risk falling further down the table from 16th position.

O'Connor declared: "With the recent form we've hit, a point against a side who are lower than us is not good enough.

"It's something we need to take on board because, for me, a performance like that doesn't show how far we've come. Altrincham deserved the point.

"We didn't come out at all in the second-half. They got the second balls, had a go at us and we defended too deep. We didn't have composure or show professionalism. Maybe it's my fault for building them up in the dressing room and unfortunately they didn't produce after that.

"I told the players at half-time that the referee had given us a shady penalty and he would try to change it for them. Unfortunately, he gave it but it wasn't about the Jackson challenge. Leading up to that, they had too much possession on the ball and unfortunately that summed up our second-half."

O'Connor had grabbed two cup wins in a row but could not claim a much-needed three league points, adding he would happily have swapped last week's LDV Vans Trophy triumph over Bradford City for beating Altrincham.

But Harriers did not start brightly enough yesterday and were fortunate to take the lead through Christie's 13th goal of the season, his seventh in six games. Winger Michael Blackwood was involved in several promising moves but Altrincham goalkeeper Stuart Coburn was rarely troubled.

Harriers goalkeeper Daniel Lewis was forced to save from Ged Murphy, Rod Thornley and Colin Little as Altrincham poured forward in the second-half.

Johnny Mullins missed a good chance to make it two on 66 minutes, turning Terry Fleming's cross wide from close range, before Aspinall's penalty eventually denied O'Connor his first league win.

HARRIERS: Lewis; Flynn, Jackson, Mullins, Hatswell; Heslop, Penn, Fleming, Blackwood (Sheldon 68); Thompson (Atieno 76), Christie. Subs not used: Danby, Burgess, Hurren.