The Harriers held strong against a second half onslaught from Oxford Utd today after taking a first half lead through Matt Barnes-Homer. That single goal was enough to give us the points and raises the side up to ninth place in the table.
In a return of our missing summer the two teams took to the field in blazing sunshine and an unchanged side again for the Harriers. Oxford sprung something of a surprise on us by including former Harriers hero James Constable in the starting line-up for them even though he was supposed to be out injured for at least another three weeks.
Sadly Beano didn't get the welcome he should have got from some juvenile sections of the Harriers support and had to suffer shouts of 'traitor' from some idiots. Not nice and certainly not clever.
Oxford also had Spilly Billy Turley on the bench after he too was supposed to be out with injury. If he had come onto the pitch then all forms of derision and catcalls would have been justified.
Following a first five minutes of pussy footing around by both sides the Harriers took charge and went all out to grab an early goal. Some of the passing trying to achieve that was first class and Oxford just did not know how to cope with us.
Justin Richards had the first effort of the afternoon after thirteen minutes, dragging a shot wide of the U's keeper Ben Hinchliffe's left side post from just outside the area. Constable responded by blazing a shot over the bar from the same range with the Harriers keeper Adam Bartlett off his line. The assist for that missed chance came from another former Harrier, Adam Murray.
With just under twenty minutes on the clock Mark Creighton sent a shot into the box and, seemingly hitting a divot, bounced into the air and over the keepers head. Luckily for him Murray was handily placed to hook it off the line.
On twenty two minutes came the goal that our play had deserved. An exhilarating interchange between Justin Richards and MBH saw Richards step over one pass for MBH who then returned the ball to him near the bye-line. Justin crossed the ball with precision for MBH to volley the ball into the goal from the near post.
Two minutes later and Lee Baker - having a much improved game - could have scored his first ever goal when he sent in a fierce drive from the edge of the area that stung the hands of Hinchcliffe. The former Bristol Rovers man, Lewis Haldane, responded by forcing Bartlett to athletically tip the ball over the bar following his piledriver from twenty yards out.
If it wasn't for the linesman's flag Richards could have put the Harriers two goals up but the official had spotted him offside as the ball nestled in the back of the net.
The game went quiet for a while then until halftime with the only effort of any note coming from Haldane again a few minutes before the whistle. His shot earned another round of applause for another fine save from Bartlett.