Harriers 0 Braintree Town 0 (FA Trophy 3rd Rd)
away fans: 64
Harriers stay in neutral for 90 minutes
The Harriers failed to raise their game against a clueless Braintree side that packed the defence at every opportunity to stifle an equally clueless Harriers frontline. They now face a mid week replay in Essex that they must now go all out to win if they want to progress any further in this seasons FA Trophy.
Admittedly we were without a number of key players but there can be no excuse for the lack of passion displayed by some of those chosen to replace Iyseden Christie, Gavin Hurren and Russ Penn in the starting line-up. Andy White came in for Christie again, Jake Sedgemore for Hurren and Brian Smikle replaced Simon Russell to allow Russell to take up the role that Penn usually plays. Out of those only Smikle could really admit that he had tried hard to achieve something.
One player that did come back from injury was Jonny Harkness and he went back to his usual full-back position leaving Michael Blackwood to return to his usual place out wide.
It all looked so promising early doors with Blackwood beating his marker continually and putting some decent crosses in. From one of these the Harriers latest signing, James Constable, hooked the ball over the bar from only a few yards out. He was to miss another chance just minutes later when he failed to connect with a sudden ball into the area and again the ball was blazed high over the bar. His third open goal miss in three games now.
The much maligned Andy White came close to scoring just before the half hour mark when he suddenly rifled in a snap shot from outside the area but Nick Morgan, in the Irons goal, collected it easily enough.
We did have the net rippling during a dour first half when Brian Smikle sent a quick shot into the side netting after Jeff Kenna and Simon Russell had worked a path towards the goal area.
Constable had a free header on the stroke of half time but he had got under it too much and the chance went well over the bar.
Braintree had done very little to warrant their presence in the game during a dire first half but we had been worse because we didn't even look interested in applying any pressure or providing any kind of cutting edge to gain the upperhand.
HT: 0 - 0
In the second half Simon Russell went back into his normal role and Smikle replaced him in midfield in an effort to get something in motion. It was never going to happen because we still didn't look like scoring and still didn't seem very interested in doing so either.
The best chance early on fell for Andy White but rather than taking the opportunity to convert what should have been an easy opening he opted instead to play the ball on for Constable who found his way forward blocked and lost possession.
We were denied a penalty on fifty minutes when a Braintree defender bought down Constable but the referee was having none of it and waved play on. From the cleared ball Jeff Kenna sent a shot in that had plenty of power but was rising all the time.
The only chance that the visitors had to score in the game came from a defensive mistake that let in Bertie Brayley to get behind the defence but once he squared up to Scott Bevan there was only going to be one winner. Bevan went down for the ball at Brayleys' feet and smothered the chance.
At the other end a goalkeeping mistake could have let us in when Michael Blackwood tried a speculative shot that didn't look as if it was going to trouble Morgan too much but the keeper saw it late and the ball rolled over his hand and, luckily for him, outside the post for a corner.
And that was about it. Luke Reynolds had come on for the in-effective Andy White and looked just as in-effective himself. Jeff Kenna went off with an ankle injury ten minutes from the end, McGrath came on and got himself booked and we didn't seem to, or want to, raise our game in the final five minutes and the game ended up as a drab 0-0 and a replay to look forward to.
At least we'll have Russ Penn back for the replay and the word is that Christie might be fit too. It looks it might need a miracle for Kenna to be fit and there is also talk of Gavin Hurren now having a back injury along with his hamstring injury so those two look to be definitely out.
With both Worcester City and Redditch out of the Trophy it's down to us again to carry the County flag forward into the next round. We have to get past Braintree first. can we?