Result: Kidderminster Harriers 0-1 Altrincham (FA Trophy 2nd Round)
Venue: Aggborough (Saturday 10th January 2015, 3.00pm)
After a passed pitch inspection at 10.30, it was approaching midday as I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly and walked along the bustling concourse looking for my connecting train onwards to Wolverhampton. Some confusion was caused as the train showed the destination as Exeter rather than the advertised Bristol, with even the train manager forgetting the line was shut for engineering works past Bristol, and that this was, indeed the terminus.
So, after that little mishap, we were on our way. I had grabbed a, not all that exclusive, plug socket to ensure my phone had a sufficient amount of juice for the day as I headed into the Midlands, passing Edgeley Park & the Britannia Stadium as the train continued to whizz through a mixture of green fields and towns on its way to the Black Country.
I arrived in said place at just after 1.30 and had a 15 minute wait for the one stop connection onwards to Smethwick Galton Bridge station. Happily the train rolled in 10 minutes early, which gave some welcome protection from the rather blustery conditions affecting the larger percentage of the country today. On arrival at SGB, I noticed that it was quite a task to find how to cross the tracks to get to the other side, Platform 1. It was this same task that a man with a suitcase was undertaking when he asked me how to do the exact thing I was trying to figure out. Luckily, I had just noticed a sign to a lift in the darkest corner of the maze-like station, so seemed the seasoned traveller.
After my new commuter friend had pulled down the “shithole” of a station, we got our way onto our required platform after figuring out that the “2” in the lift signified floor “1” and not floor 2 as there was no floor 2, as there was only two floors. Confused? I certainly was.
To be frank, I was rather relieved when I was able to leave the station, as it certainly hadn’t left me with the best impressions. After traveling onwards for a further 25-or-so minutes, and passing stations loaded with West Brom fans heading to the Hawthorns for their match with Hull City, I arrived in Kidderminster after a trouble free (!) journey. After hopping off the London Midland service, I crossed the footbridge and made my way towards the town & more importantly the floodlights, which were visible from the station.
After missing two clearly visible pubs (as I noted on my return journey),I made the decision that there wasn’t any in the near vicinity of the station or the railway museum and so, I tagged onto some people heading to the game who directed me through a modern housing estate to the ground, Aggborough. After climbing a slight incline, with the minster clearly visible to the rear, Aggborough came up with little warning on the left hand side. After a few pictures were taken, I made my way around to the away end where I would spend the 90 minutes of action with the Altrincham fans.
As I made my way through the turnstile for the away end terrace, there were around 30 minutes to kick-off for the FA Trophy tie between Altrincham & their hosts today, Kidderminster Harriers. But first, a little description of Aggborough itself, for the benefit of those with flash photography, sorry, I mean who haven’t visited there as of yet. Aggborough is made up of four stands, two seating, toow terraces. The seating stands run the length of the pitch with the terraces running the vast majority of the width of it. This is unsurprising, as a decade ago Harriers were plying their trade in the Football League. The Main Stand houses the hospitality area and has the ticket office and the adjoining Harriers Bar in the rear of it too. The opposite stand is the larger of the stands, however. All in all Aggborough has a capacity of 6,250 with 3,140 able to be seated.
Formed in 1886 as a continuation of an existing athletics & rugby union football club, Kidderminster Harriers took on the mantle of football club as the “Kidderminster Harriers & Football Club” switched to association rules.
They won their first game, before entering into a local rivalry with start-up Kidderminster Olympic. Both sides were strong, and accused by others of professionalism and illegal payments. Before their merger in 1890, the two regularly attracted crowds of 2-4,000 with 7,000 turning out for local derby clashes.
Now known as Kidderminster FC, the new club joined the Midland League, but lasted only 12 months, despite reaching the FA Cup 1st Round. They lost 3-1 to Darwen, away. They complained about the pitch. Their complaint was upheld. They lost the replay 13-0. Ouch.
After being wound up in 1891, the club reformed as an amateur club in the Birmingham & District League under the name Kidderminster Harriers. However, it took the club until 1938 to win the league, whereupon the club made the switch to the Southern League, but played just two matches before WWII ended their campaign.
After the cessation of hostilities, the club re-joined the Southern League for 1948. In September of 1955, Harriers became the first club to host a floodlit FA Cup tie, Harriers winning a replay 4-2 over Brierley Hill Alliance. But, by the latter part of the decade, the club was once again in financial strife and voluntarily dropped back to the Birmingham League. During their time here (1960-’72, the club won many honours, in the shape of 4x West Midlands (Regional) League Titles (the current Birmingham League Name), including a hat-trick of titles between 1968 & 1970, and various County Cups on eight separate occasions. For 1972-’73, the club were back in the Southern League, in the newly created Division One North.
In 1983, Harriers were granted promotion to the Alliance (now Conference) after finishing runners-up to AP Leamington, who were denied their place due to ground grading issues. Throughout the ’70’s & ’80’s,Harriers were invited to compete in the Welsh Cup, despite never competing in Wales. They reached two finals but were defeated on both occasions, by Wrexham & Swansea City respectively.
In 1994, Harriers won the Conference National but were denied entry to the Football League, due to the FA’s increasingly stringent fire regulations, following the Valley Parade tragedy. This was due to Aggborough’s main stand being made primarily of wood. Despite a new Cantilever Stand being erected in time, the club had to spend another season, at least, in the non-league realm.
It wasn’t until 2000, in fact, that Harriers won the Conference again and take their place in the 92, as Jan Molby led them to the title. After a five year stay, the club were relegated back to the Conference where they remain to the present day. They have reached the 2006 FA trophy final (beaten by Stevenage Borough) and the 2013 play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals to Wrexham after finishing as runners-up. Last season, Harriers continued their recent trend of narrowly missing out on a play-off place, as they finished in 7th position.
Conference Champions: 1994, 2000
FA Trophy Winners: 1987
Birmingham & District League/West Midlands (Regional) League Champions: 6 times
Bob Lord Trophy Winners: 1997
Southern League Cup Winners: 1980
Worcestershire Senior Cup Winners: 25 times
Birmingham Senior Cup Winners: 7 times
Staffordshire Senior Cup Winners: 4 times
West Midland League Cup Winners: 7 times
Keys Cup Winners: 7 times
Border Counties Floodlit League Champions: 3 times
Camkin Floodlit Cup Winners: 3 times
Bass County Vase Winners: 1 times
Onto today’s game now, and both sides were given a good ovation by the sparse-ish crowd in attendance, with the travelling Altrincham contingent very vocal. The game got underway with both sides going for it. The pitch wasn’t great, but also wasn’t the horror show you could be lead to believe.
The deadlock was broken after 20 minutes, when Akwasi Asante, who was a threat all day turned sharply and fired a low effort which Stuart Coburn, in the Alty goal, saved comfortably. From his long kick downfield, Harriers debutant Nat Kelly, on loan from Birmingham City, got underneath the ball, missed it and Damien reeves showed his class as he drilled a holf-volley across Danny Lewis in the Harriers goal. A tremendous strike, which words don’t really give the credit to. 0-1.
Kiddy’s cause wasn’t helped when, 10 minutes before half-time, star man Marvin Johnson was forced from the field, injured. However, it looked as though Kiddy were going to go in level when Luca Havern was adjudged to have fouled Asante in the area. Penalty. Craig Reid stepped up, but blasted his kick high into the cheering Alty fans behind Coburn. He’ll feel he hit it too well. So 1-0 to the visitors it remained at the break, as I purchased Chicken Curry for 4.50 (complete with Poppadum) before receiving possibly some of the best news I’ll see all year, and we’re only 10 days in!
After devouring the tasty curry (Kiddy is well known for its culinary delights I’m told), the teams were back out for the second period. But, it was something akin to the Alamo, as Harriers battered away at the defences of Altrincham’s fortifications, but couldn’t find a way to break through; Another debutant, sub Keylon Reffell had an effort cleared off the line by Tom Marshall, a game of six-yard box pinball was conducted and Coburn denied Asante with a smart stop. It looked a matter of time before Kiddy would draw level.
But veteran gloveman Coburn had other ideas as he pulled off a hat-trick of fine saves, twice denying the ever dangerous Reffell and also full-back Kevin Nicholson, whose 20-yard driven free-kick looked destined for the top corner before Coburn clawed it away. As the referee added on an extra five minutes, the home fans became expectant, but Altrincham stayed composed in defence to see off the siege and advance to round three and a meeting with Bath City (away). They would be somewhat indebted to Stuart Coburn, however, who put in a top-class performance & celebrated with his customary fist pump to the traveling band of 136 loyal Robins fans.
I exited the now darkened Kidderminster via a quick stop in the Harriers Arms to catch up on the final scores, before undertaking the 10-minute walk back to the station. I got there just as the train rolled in and was soon back to GSB (oh, joy). After 15 minutes and a quick hop back to Wolverhampton, I was back on board a Virgin Trains service to Warrington Bank Quay where, upon arrival I crossed the town to Central Station, and the train home. Another good day out, and thanks tot he reduced admission prices, a fairly cheaper one than it would have been usually. Now, onto planning my next “long distance” trip. I may just require a Bath…
My Kidderminster Harriers M.o.M.- Akwasi Asante
My Altrincham M.o.M.- Stuart Coburn
Game: 7- A good, entertaining contest. Surprised there was only one goal, but lots of action.
Ground: 7- A smart ground, which retains character, and is set out well.
Programme: 6- A cut down issue of “The Harrier”, £2, so lacking in content I presume. Still a good read though.
Fans: 7- Got behind the team vocally from the terrace when their side was attacking their end 2nd half.
Food: 8- Good tasting and portion size. Like the added poppadum bonus!
Value For Money: 8- Take out the £27 train fare, and it wasn’t at all bad!