Harriers 2 Mansfield Town 0
away fans: 78
Harriers turn up the heat
The Harriers warmed the hearts of the fans that bothered to turn up on a freezing evening to see us beat Mansfield Town by two goals to nil and climb to third in the table. Helped in a small way by Eastbourne beating Torquay Utd 4-2 and allowing us to leapfrog them.
We were also given a helping hand by our visitors who were as poor a side seen at Aggborough for a long, long time. A vast difference to the team that beat us at their place back in August and now they find themselves in a relegation battle at the foot of the table.
Mark Yates decided to go with the same team that beat Salisbury on Saturday with Andy Ferrell the only change on the bench coming in for Darryl Knights who seems to be becoming somewhat out of favour at the minute.
Mansfield had a new keeper on for this game after Paddy Gamble was involved in a car crash over the weekend and their other two keepers both injured. In came James Annerson from Sheffield Utd as an emergency loan. Also starting for them were a couple of former Harriers with Alex Jeannin and Gavin Hurren looking to get one over on their former team mates.
We started the game very well and it was looking good for a couple of early goals. Sadly for us Town were defending well and closing down Richards, Brittain and Barnes-Homer as soon as they got a sight of the ball. Russ Penn was looking something like his former self and he had two shots on goal that went sailing over the bar when he could have done something better with them.
Mansfield made an early change to their side when Matt Somner came on for Adie Moses after just over twenty minutes. There didn't seem too much wrong with him so it must have been tactical.
A minute after Jeannin almost scored an own goal when a cross from Lee Baker came over and evaded the Harriers strikers to deflect off our former defender and go just past the post. Brian Smikle was the first to get anything like a shot on goal for us but his overhead kick was a bit weak and the keeper collected it easily.
The game had now gone into a midfield morass with neither side able to string two passes together and the familiar old hoof came more and more into the game and with half time drawing near Dean Bennett, who had picked up a knock earlier in the game, signalled to the bench that he wanted to come off. Andy Ferrell came on in his place with just one minute left of the first period.
HT: 0 - 0
With the temperature now dropping faster than a former League club in free fall the second half was a vast improvement on the first. For the first ten minutes Mansfield actually started to look like a team that cared. In fact both teams did.
Justin Richards had the first chance of the half when his shot went straight at the keeper and then the Stags replied with a shot from Jonathan D'Laryea that re-bounded back off Mark Creighton. Russ Penn tried his luck next and his shot went only just wide.
Richards was back in action again when he should really have done better than hesitating on the ball with the keeper closing him down. The option was there to either put the ball under him or use a slight lift and lob the ball over but he chose instead to side foot it past him towards the far post but Gavin Hurren reacted too quickly and ran back to clear it off the line.
We had seen more action in the first ten minutes of this half than in the entire first forty five.
On the hour Keith Lowe forced Annerson into a mistake and he dropped the ball at the feet of a pack of Harriers players but then recovered enough to claim the ball back. From the goal kick Mansfield had their only real chance of the game when Adnam Ahmed ran onto the ball and his volley was only just tipped over the bar by Adam Bartlett. Barts would have been grateful for the exercise.
A few minutes later, following Mansfield replacing Nathan Arnold with Aaron O'Connor, we made our second change of the night. David McDermott came on for Brian Smikle and straight away he made a difference.
His run towards the bye-line left the visiting defenders for dead but his fierce cross into the area was too strong for anyone to connect with although Richards was within a whisker of touching it in.
Finally the opening goal arrived.
We had won a corner and, as usual, Martin Brittain took it. The ball was aimed at the far post and Keith Lowe rose the highest to power the ball into the net for his first ever Harriers goal.
His partner at the back, Mark Creighton, was not going to be outdone by this and minutes later he too could have scored but his shot was deflected just wide. From the corner Lowe again rose highest but this time his header was wide of the mark.
Five minutes from the end Yates sent on Chris Beardsley in place of the out of sorts Barnes-Homer and he was soon in action robbing a dithering defender of the ball but there was no one available to collect any intended pass.
It didn't matter because moments later Justin Richards completed the scoring for us with his fourteenth goal of the season. A Russ Penn pass through the middle found the Harriers dangerman ready and waiting to finish the move off with a shot that left the keeper grasping mid air.
He could have scored a second goal just after but this time his shot hit Alan O'Hare and went away for a corner that fell just right for Martin Riley to blast a shot goalwards. It was saved by the keeper.
As a little extra the team, led by McDermott, gave us a flavour of Brazil while the seconds ticked down to the final whistle for another home win and another three points in the bag.
We now have another day off from League business this Saturday when the unknown Burscough come here in the FA Trophy. Will we make an effort to win it or have we started to think that maybe this is our year and promotion should take precedence.