Harriers 1 Gravesend & Northfleet 2
away fans: 55 approx
45 minute Harriers lose to soft goal again
The Harriers probably said goodbye to their play-off hopes today with this defeat at the hands of a very lucky Gravesend. Lucky to get all three points and lucky to see their keeper staying on the pitch after bringing down Luke Reynolds as he was about to lob him.
Yes, Reynolds started the game today after being given the nod over the Bromsgrove reject, Gary Hay. It's been a mystery to many why our first choice striker at the start of the season had been pushed down in the pecking order in favour of a journey man from a fifth rate team a few miles away.
Reynolds replaced Iyseden Christie, out for his fifth booking of the season and Jake Sedgemore came in for Stuart Whitehead for the same reason.
The game itself was, by all accounts, lucky to be going ahead after heavy rainfall overnight threatened to get the game called off but go ahead it did thanks to an army of pitch swabbers and forkers. They, along with the rest of the home fans, will be wondering why on earth they bothered after yet another dire first half.
We're supposed to been widely known as a footballing side that likes to play the ball on the ground but just lately it's been in the air so often it's grown wings. Get the ball...Hoof. Get the ball...Hoof it again. It's not pretty and it's not clever.
Thankfully we had gone back to proper football by the time the second half came around and boy, what a difference.
In amongst the first half hoof and hope football we saw a chance for Simon Russell that he sent over the bar before the Fleet opened the scoring. From a corner on the left the ball was sent over and cleared, but only to the edge of the area, where Stacey Long had time to advance on goal a few feet, tee up his shot and then send it just inside of Bevans right hand upright. One wonders why he was given all that time to set up and score when our supposed defenders are stood around watching.
They could have doubled their scoreline minutes later when Reg Varney put Mark Creighton under pressure and then passed the ball neatly to Long who blazed the ball over.
We had chances to score, mainly from free kicks, but the usual experts at such tasks failed miserably to keep the ball down and they were all wasted. The two highlights of the first half was, first, an overhead kick just in front of goal by none other than Creighton but it was too weak to cause Lance Cronin in the Gravesend goal much trouble.
The second was much more serious and should have seen the dismissal of the visiting keeper. Cronin had tried to play the ball away from his area but found himself being tackled by Luke Reynolds who then robbed him of the ball. With Reynolds now facing an empty net he sized up to lob the ball into the vacant net but Cronin grabbed him around the lags and stopped him.
A clearcut chance of scoring? Yes. Getting sent off for stopping a goal scoring opportunity? No. No, just a booking.
That was about it for a very disappointing first half when we did absolutely zilch and deserved to be a goal down.
HT: 0 - 1
The second half could be no worse than the first and so it proved. We had now realised that the ball didn't mind being played on the grass.
We were finding other players far better and the only two downsides were the constant niggling fouls from Gravesend and the offside trap being put into continuous use by the visitors. Some offsides were so narrow that the lino lady could have done with a micrometer at times.
Our first chance to get back on level terms came early on in the half when James Constable went in for a waist high ball on the keeper. Cronin got the ball and then dropped it but the ref said that Constable had fouled him, which was a lie.
On fifty three minutes the Harriers drew deservedly level. We were given a corner that was taken by Jonny Harkness that was only half cleared away by the Gravesend defenders, dropping just right for Reynolds to put it back into the area by hooking the ball over his shoulder. Cronin got a hand to it but only to help it on it's way into goal.
We were about to enter our best period of play with chance after chance going our way but only hard luck failing to convert what would have been a goal to signal an onslaught. Constable headed the ball just wide and Simon Russell should have done better with a shot that went over the bar after he leant back slightly too far.
Our task was being helped no end by the dodgy Lance Cronin, wearing what looked like some effeminate PE kit, continuously coming out of his goal for the slightest reason. He almost paid the price when his own team mate headed the ball back to him and didn't realise that he was stood right behind him. The ball rolled back towards the goal and Cronin had to race back to stop it from going in.
Another chance went begging for Russell just after that when he won the race to the byeline for a ball and got himself into a good position to score but, instead, played it further in for Reynolds who then failed to get a touch on the ball.
An even better chance came later when Russell again found himself free on the edge of the area and sent a superb ball whizzing across the face of the goal. This time two players, Reynolds and Constable, failed to get in the telling touch on it and it hit the base of the post and away out of danger.
They were the most noteworthy of many chances to get into a lead for us but then came the killer blow.
Cronin's goal kick was sent way up field and with Creighton not seeming to be under too much pressure he dwelt too long on the ball. Sodge, only on the field for a few minutes, saw his chance and robbed the big man, took the ball a few yards further and sent in what looked to be a weak shot. It was obviously not all that weak because it took a deflection off Bevan and rolled into the net for the winner.
We'll have another chance to get back into play-off contention on Tuesday when Halifax make their way back down here again but time is now running down and we also have the problem of the Trophy semi finals this coming Saturday too. What is most important?