Stafford Rangers 0 Kidderminster Harriers 4 Att: 366
This was Harriers’ third pre-season friendly and on paper at least, the toughest game yet. Stafford of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier, however should have been no more than a warm-up for the Conference National side.
The walk to the ground from the station passes several pubs classed as real ale establishments and we settled on The Greyhound Inn, which is probably the first calling point of many an ex-lag with its location opposite the town’s prison. There was around 8 hand pumps inside and a welcoming, friendly atmosphere from the regulars.
And so to the ground. Tucked away behind terraced houses, the approach had a proper old-school feel, ruined only by the modern, if functional, floodlights appearing above the rooftops. Our very first impression was the warmth of the people, the stewards outside, the turnstile attendant and the man in a suit obviously supervising the whole event were cheerful, helpful and welcoming, even before we set foot inside the ground.
£7 was the entrance fee, but there was no programme, although a team sheet was available for 20p. With a plate of chips bought, we settled on the flat standing area behind the goal that the Harriers were attacking in the first half.
A steep main (all seating) stand (£1 additional fee) ran about a third of the length of the pitch was to our right. Opposite to that was a covered terrace running two-thirds of the length of the pitch. Behind the other goal was slightly banked terracing, all giving the impression that if a crowd ever came close to the ground’s 4000 capacity, there would be quite some atmosphere.
In the opening exchanges of the game, it became apparent that Kiddy had come on some way from the game against AFC Wulfrunians just 4 days earlier. The ball was being passed well and there was definitely energy about the near full-strength team.
After only 9 minutes, new signing Ricky Shakes rounded Rangers’ ‘keeper and crossed for Marvin Johnson to slot into an empty net. 0-1.
The rest of the half became the Anthony Malbon show. The man from the Potteries returned to his county of birth and put on a real show. On 24 minutes, in a fast breakaway, Malbon evaded the last defender before slotting a powerful shot in the bottom right hand corner of the goalkeeper’s net. 0-2.
On 37 minutes he made it 0-3 with an outside-of-the-boot shot which nestled in the bottom of the other corner of the ‘keepers net.
Yet between the two he managed to miss the easiest opportunity of the lot ballooning over from around 6 yards.
The second half brought a few changes and saw the introduction of Guinan in attack for the Harriers. Yet it was in this half that Rangers proved a little more incisive. Courtney Pitt, a veteran of Porstmouth, Luton and Cambridge United to name a few rattled Harriers’ woodwork twice from wonderfully executed free-kicks. A technique which is bound to net him a few goals in the coming season.
Harriers did carve out chances, but either the final touch was missing, or in the case of Guinan’s header late-on, were denied by the heroics of Stafford’s ‘keeper.
There was one goal in the second half though and it was scored by Guinan, after he latched on to a terrible back-pass and despatched his shot with ease. 0-4.
A sunny day, an old fashioned ground, a friendly atmosphere, plenty of goals – that was £7 well spent.