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Harriers 2 Stevenage 3    FA Trophy Final

Date: 12-05-07 Venue: Wembley Stadium att: 53,262
Harriers throw Trophy Final lead away
Wembley Stadium Harriers fans left the new Wembley Stadium broken hearted following the second half capitulation by their heroes today.    With the team two goals up through the on fire James Constable we found ourselves on the racks from the very first minute of a second half in which Stevenage ruthlessly destroyed any hope of victory we had.

During a first half that had started nervously for both sides the Reds had built up their confidence to a level that found us cutting through the Stevenage defence at will but by the end of the game that situation had reversed and it was the Hertfordshire side that were doing the cutting.    A goal from Steve Morison in the final few minutes was the destroyer that we did not want.

Harriers team line-up It had all looked so good before the game with the crowds flocking to the stadium, mixing together, looking at the new Bobby Moore statue and gazing in awe at the new showpiece of English football - the stadium.

Ok, the surroundings are still a disgrace with the rundown eyesores all around but I'm sure some will be dealt with in the future but some, like the blocks of decrepit flats may take longer.    The chance was missed to build a landscaped stadium outside Birmingham, or even London itself, but we're stuck with it for the next fifty years now.

Once inside you couldn't help but be struck by the size of the place and also the redness of it all.    The concourse outside was very drab in comparison and the lack of decent toilets also came as a surprise after being told that there were something like over 2,600 toilets available.    Where were they then?

Stevenage team line-up Another major problem was the poor tannoy.    So much so that when it came to the team line-ups being read out that you couldn't hear it and it was easier to look at the screen behind you.    Which also brings me to the next minor complaint of the lack of squad numbers in the programme so that you didn't know who was who, for Stevenage, once the game started.

Harriers flag fying As it was it was basically the usual line-up for us with Michael Blackwood filling in for the suspended Jonny Harkness at the back and Brian Smikle sitting in front of him on the left flank.    The bench comprised of the usual suspects plus the return of Andy White following his loan spell at Stafford.

For Stevenage they had a far stronger bench than us and that was to prove the correct decision later in the game.

After a scrappy first fifteen minutes the Harriers started to gain the ascendancy and took control of the game.    Our passing was better and we were running into spaces being left open by a static Borough defence.    James Constable was having a field day and so it proved in the thirty fist minute when he opened the scoring.

Jeff Kenna sent a short free kick over to Iyseden Christie who then took the ball past Santos Gaia and then fired at the Stevenage goal.    The ball went past the keeper, Alan Julian, but was cleared off the line by Barry Fuller but only as far as Constable who knocked the ball into the empty net via the keepers body.

A few minutes later and the former Walsall striker had put us two goals up when he struck again with the best goal of the game.    The much vaunted, by Stevenage fans, Steve Guppy was easily robbed of the ball by Blackwood who then played the ball on for Christie to flick it into the path of Constable.    His powerful shot from the corner of the area left Julian with no chance of stopping.

The Harriers were now fully in charge of the game, a game that looked to be wrapped up for us.    It could have been made the more so just two minutes before the break when Simon Russell, having a very quiet game by his standards, saw his shot blocked on the line by John Nutter.

The feeling that we were on our way to victory was so high amongst the fans that Mexican Waves were the order of the day and when it got as far as the depressed Stevenage fans they were abruptly stopping to a good natured chorus of derision.    That depression would be lifted soon after.

HT: 2 - 0
The second period of play should have seen the Harriers going on to win the game or at least close ranks and keep their superb lead.    Sadly it wasn't the case and within seconds of the starting whistle being blown Stevenage took the game to us.

It must have been a great team talk from their manager, Mark Stimson, and he must have pointed out our weaknesses to his side.    They looked a different side and we found them hard to handle.

Within six minutes they had pulled a goal back through Mitchell Cole.    Adam Miller sent the ball over into the box for Morison to nod down into the path of Cole who then swept past the Harriers static defence to send the ball past a nervous looking Scott Bevan.

The final heart breaking score Harriers had a brief flurry of possession following the goal without really giving Stevenage too many worries and in the sixty third minute Stimpson made his first change to his side with the in-effective Guppy being replaced with Craig Dobson.

Stevenage had now gone to a more attack minded look and this should have rung alarm bells in Mark Yates head.    The fact that we were now struggling and had seen our lead cut should have seen us bring on another defender or midfielder at the expense of a striker.  Instead we saw Christie taken off to be replaced like for like with another, inferior, striker.

Stevenage obviously couldn't believe their luck and pressed on in search of a second goal.    That came from the man that had come on for them just ten minutes earlier.

Stuart Whitehead thinks what could have been ours Nutter sent a defence splitting pass through the, yet again static Harriers defence, for Dobson to run onto.    Michael Blackwood tried to catch him but he had started his run too quickly for the makeshift fullback and got to the ball just before the on rushing Bevan to toe poke it past him.

The Harriers fans hearts slumped into their chests as we all realised that we were on the verge of throwing it all away.    We had gone from being a joyous, singing bunch to a gathering of nervous wrecks.

Andy White, for all his faults, was getting non existent service from midfield and it was being left to Constable to make space for himself.    He could have done better with a shot that went wide and Gavin Hurren had a similar chance that he will regret hitting too weakly.

The Mexican Waves were now being created by Stevenage and even though we joined in to keep our spirits up we were never really one hundred percent convinced by them.

Last view of Wembley as the coach pulled away That lack of conviction so proved with a few minutes remaining on the clock.    Morison, who had been poor for most of the game, popped up from nowhere to give his side the winner in the eighty eighth minute when he found himself un-marked on the edge of the area.    He met Fullers cross from the right perfectly to send a volley into the net beyond the reach of Bevan.

In the final minutes of the game Luke Reynolds was sent on needlessly when he could have come on much earlier instead of White.

So our dream was over for another year and we still have to win a game at Wembley.    We can take heart from the fact that local teams such as Hereford Utd have never even played there once let alone four times.

It was gutting to watch the Stevenage team celebrating with their fans and our lads looking around for someone to commiserate with.    For the fans it was a disappointment that the team didn't come over to applaud our support for them and chose instead to mill around the halfway line.

I couldn't stand and watch Stevenage collect their medals and left to catch the coach home.

Many people will come up with their views why we lost this game.    I'd put it down to many things - lack of squad depth, as shown by a weak bench, and a lack of fitness from the players who visibly looked knackered thirty minutes from the end.

Other observations were the astounding decision for the man of the match award going to Craig Dobson, a player that had only been on the pitch for twenty minutes, and that same player going down with cramp five minutes from the end.    Wuss!

Overall we deserved to lose following a pathetic second half display but that could so easily have been avoided by better managerial decisions.
FT: 2 - 3

 Goals for Harriers: Constable 31, 37
 Goals for Stevenage: Cole 51, Dobson 74, Morison 88

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Harriers  subs   cards      Stevenage  subs   cards 
Bevan     Julian  
Kenna     Fuller gif
Blackwood     Nutter  
Hurren gif   Henry  
Creighton     Gaia  
Whitehead     Beard  
Smikle     Miller  
Penn gif   Guppy  
Christie     Morison  
Constable     Oliver gif
Russell     Cole  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
S Taylor     Potter  
Sedgemore     Slabber  
McGrath     Dobson  
Reynolds     Nurse  
White     McMahon  

Mr C Foy

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