Ware FC 0 Harriers 2 (FA Cup 1st rd)
Venue: Wodson Park
away fans: 315
Harriers overcome a stiff test at Ware
Kidderminster Harriers moved into the next round of the FA Cup with this hard won victory at battling Ware but the result wasn't achieved without any casualties. For the fourth time this season we had a player red carded and this time it was the Captain, Stuart Whitehead, who was sent from the field of play.
The game started with a bit of a surprise with Iyseden Christie getting his first start of the season at the expense of Justin Richards. James Constable was back from injury to accompany him up front. Dean Bennett was sat watching in the stand serving the first part of his three game ban for his dismissal at Burton last week while Michael McGrath got his second start in a row to confirm that he is now part of the first team thinking.
Our hosts Ware had done well to come this far in the competition with this being their sixth game of the run. The victory against higher placed Tonbridge Angels in the previous round had given them the chance to pit their wits against the Harriers.
In front of a packed Wodson Park in carnival mood it was the condition of the pitch that was to dictate the majority of the game. Bumpy, with undulating dips and rises, along with a drop of at least eighteen inches from one end to the other it wasn't what the Harriers were used to but suited Ware just fine.
It was worrying to see us lose possession so often after receiving a pass with the ball bouncing off in a totally unexpected direction. It was a frustrating first half for both fans and players alike that in the end we reverted to a long ball game and just hoped that the ball would bounce right but it rarely did.
The home side were the first out of the blocks with their midfielder, Sam Berry, testing Chris MacKenzie out. His shot from a Dave Blower pass was no trouble for the Harriers goalie though.
We were being limited to long range efforts and set pieces and one such came from James Constable who headed straight at the keeper from a free kick and later a shot from outside the area from Russ Penn went well wide.
Mid way through the half a strong, but fair, challenge on Wares Danny Spendlove from Mark Creighton resulted in the Ware man being subbed with Joe Stevens coming on for him. Almost immediately Stevens tried his luck with a shot that went wide.
The rest of the first half was a mishmash of a game with neither side getting any clear chances to score until the final few seconds before the half time whistle. From a corner taken by McGrath, James Constable tried a well aimed overhead kick but the linesman had spotted Christie off side so the goal was dis-allowed.
If we were hoping to get a result first time from this game then we were going to have a re-think during the break. We were having major problems coping with the pitch and we need to adapt our game better to combat it and the resilient Ware team.
HT: 0 - 0
Without any changes to the line-ups the Harriers kicked off facing down the slope with the obvious advantage that should bring. Russ Penn was again the first to try his luck with a shot from twenty five yards out but that flew well over the bar and into the sapling birch trees beyond.
Ware made a tactical change early on in this half with Chris Ellerbeck changing places with Scott Nielson but it seemed to make no real difference to their attacking prowess. It seemed that this was as good as Ware were going to get and would now be hoping for a draw and another chance at Aggborough.
Mark Creighton came close to opening the scoring for us when he latched onto a deft flick on from Stuart Whitehead to head the ball just inches away from the far upright. Then Russ Penn tried yet another long range effort that went the same way as all his previous attempts.
The first booking of the game came almost on the hour mark with Sam Berry going into the book for up-ending Christie in an agricultural style leaving the burly Harriers striker on his back. Soon after Christie was taken off to be replaced with Justin Richards in an effort to pep up our attack.
Before Richards had even had a chance to touch the ball came the controversial sending off of Whitehead. A high ball came over that landed between Wares John Frendo and the Harriers Captain and both players ended up tussling for the ball with shirt tugging from both men but the ref decided that Whitehead's pull on Frendo's shirt was a greater offence that the identical one from the Ware player.
For the second game in a row the Harriers have had a man sent off.
The loss of Whitehead called for a quick substitution and Gavin Hurren came on to replace Brian Smikle and take up the role vacated by Whitehead. Five minutes later we had taken the lead at last.
A free kick was given to the Harriers just outside the area following a foul on Penn and after a short wait Michael Blackwood stepped up to take it. His powerful kick went straight through the wall and, taking a slight deflection, left the keeper wrong footed as he watched the ball fly past him into the net.
Four minutes later and the game was all but over. This time the ball fell just right from a McGrath cross for Constable to unleash a ferocious drive that left the keeper rooted to the spot and the Harriers almost home and dry.
I say almost because Ware nearly had the ball in the net straight from the re-start but luckily for us it had only gone into the side netting. It had the Harriers fans stuck in a corner of the ground worried for a few seconds though.
Ten minutes from the end a moment of comedy came when an idiot in the home crowd ran onto the pitch displaying his crown jewels but were in fact mere trinkets. It raised a smile though which is more than he raised.
Gavin Hurren came close to being on the field for a very short time when he sent Frendo tumbling on the edge of the area but, with the Harriers fans expecting another red card, the referee just gave him a talking to and left it at that. The free kick was wasted.
With the game now approaching the ninety minute mark the fourth official bought out the card with seven minutes extra time on it. Where he got that from God knows but that seven minutes was to lead to another red card.
We had bought on Jonny Harkness in place of Constable and unusually Harkness went up front as a striker and not into his usual defensive position. He had one good shot at goal before he then later tried to pass the ball but as Danny Wolf came past him the Ware Captain stuck his elbow into Jonny's face right in front of the referee. The red card came out immediately and Wolf made his way back to his den with his tail between his legs.
A sad blot on a fine performance from the home side and one that was not really needed either with the offence being totally uncalled for. For some strange reason Harkness got booked for his part in it but what that part could have been only the referee knew.
With less than the seven minutes gone the referee drew an early end to the game and the Harriers made their way into the next round of the Cup and £16 grand better off.