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Harriers 1gifCheltenham Town 2

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Date: 26-12-15 gif Venue: Aggborough gif att: 3238 gif away fans: 973
Battling Harriers lose the Boxing Day derby

gif Report: Phil Lench
Following this Boxing Day derby defeat at home to table topping Cheltenham Town today the Harriers now sit six points adrift of Torquay - the team above us - after a raft of games involving the other relegation threatened teams ended up with all of them winning.  Southport continued their resurgence with an away win at Wrexham, Halifax won at Lincoln, Borehamwood won at home to Braintree while Torquay themselves upset the form book with a stunning 4-1 home win against Forest Green who we meet in two days time.

It is now looking desperate for us with the return game at Cheltenham to come as well as the FGR game on Monday.  At least we know now that the Vegetarians can be beat.

On paper, and by our own fans admission, we were expecting a thrashing today so to keep the scoreline respectable was a bonus and to do it by battling hard and never giving up added to that bonus.  Cheltenham were clearly a level or two above us but we gave them a hard game and that must give us some kind of hope in future games even though it looks all but lost now.

We started the game with Matt Barnes-Homer and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner restored to the starting line-up with Gurjit Singh and James McQuilkin making way for them.  Jared Hodgkiss continued in midfield and made us a very defensive looking unit but to our credit we did try to get forward as much as possible.

making a return to Aggborough with Cheltenham was our former captain Kyle Storer and centre forward Danny Wright.  It was Wright that opened the scoring for his side after they had already come close on a few occasions with the man in question sending a header over the bar, Andrija Novakovic hit the foot of the post after deceiving Dean Snedker into thinking it was going wide and then Wright again failed in his heading ability.

Once we got over that opening salvo we began to get into the game more by giving them as little room as possible and hoping that an opening would come our way too.  Our first chance fell for newish signing Omari Patrick when he capitalised on an Aaron Downes error and sent a low drive just past the Cheltenham keepers upright.  Straight after the visitors took the lead.

Downes redeemed himself with a cross from the right that was defended poorly as it entered the Harriers area.  It fell perfectly for Wright to rub our faces in it as his header this time stayed low and went into the net.  It wasn't long before we claimed that goal back though.

Four minutes after Wrights opener Ben Whitfield did well to get the ball from a Robins defender and then go on to win a corner.  He took the set piece himself and whipped it into the far post for Kelvin Langmead to get a head on it but that chance was blocked then fell at the feet of Kyle Howkins to force the ball home for his first ever senior goal.

That was the trigger we needed and we could have gone into the break with a lead when a Whitfield cross found the head of Patrick.  His downward header beat Dillon Phillips in the visitors goal but luckily for them was cleared off the line by Jack Barthram.

In the dying seconds of the first half Jack Munns could have restored his sides lead but his ferocious shot from outside the area hit the woodwork after beating Snedker ends up.
  HT: 1 - 1
Cheltenham made a change at the re-start and bought on Billy Waters in place of the poor looking Novakovich.

Waters was in action immediately and they took the game by the throat and shook it hard.  Wright was still looking dangerous and again yet again tried his luck with a header that went only just wide of the target.  In response Whitfield moved forward with the ball and, opting not to pass to another Harriers player, fired the ball high from a distance and see it dip a little too late to enter the net.

Danny Wright was again being a menace in front of goal and should have doubled his tally, and his teams, when he headed in from close range only for Snedker to pull off a class save at point blank range.  Snedker made another fine save a minute later when he kept out Ryan Jennings shot and then was forced to rely on his captain Jared Hodgkiss to clear a Kyle Storer form off the line after the keeper was beaten.

Sadly we couldn't hold out any further and the heartbreaking, winning goal finally arrived.

Again Snedker saved well from Jennings but when the Robins were given yet another corner there was nothing he could do about Downes header after the Cheltenham defender ran from outside the area to meet the set piece with his head and power it beyond the reach of the keeper.

The Harriers head coach Dave Hockaday chose that moment to make our first change by taking off Barnes-Homer in favour of Gurjit Singh and then soon after giving Elton N'Gwatala his home debut in place of Rowe-Turner.  One feels that it might have made more sense to have reversed that substitution and let N'Gwatala supply MBH with the ammunition that he had been without all afternoon.

As it was the leaders decided enough was enough and opted to contain any threat we could pose.  N'Gwatala looked useful and could be a starter at Forest Green and so could Singh after he fired over the bar as the final minutes of the game approached but in the end we weren't good enough to cause the league leaders too many problems football wise but did so with our bravery and non stop effort all game.

Sadly effort isn't enough in our predicament.
  FT: 1 - 2

 Goal for Harriers: Howkins 30
 Goals for Cheltenham: Wright 26, Downes 67


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gif Jared Hodgkiss



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Harriers  goals   subs   cards      Cheltenham Town  goals   subs   cards 
Snedker     Phillips  
Young     Barthram  
Rowe-Turner gif     McLennan  
Maxwell   Storer  
Langmead     Downes gif  
Howkins gif     Parslow  
Francis-Angol     Pell
Hodgkiss     Jennings gif  
Barnes-Homer gif     Wright gif
Patrick     Novakovich gif  
Whitfield     Munns gif  
SUBS:         SUBS:      
Brown     Kitscha  
Singh gif - 72     Waters gif - 46  
Jones     Hall gif - 86  
McQuilkin     J Rowe  
N'Gwatala gif - 76     Dayton gif - 79  

REFEREE:
Mr J Brooks
Leicestershire





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