Some of the hardest news to take in recent years hit the club after a superb performance in the Blue Square Premier which saw the Harriers finish 6th in the table and a FA Cup run which took them to the 3rd round away to Coventry. The squad was to be dismantled due to radical budget cuts with Adam Bartlett, Keith Lowe, Justin Richards, Martin Brittain and Chris McPhee all being told by the club that they could not afford to keep them on.This shattering news set the tone for the season that was to follow, the squad who had played so many fantastic performances on the Aggborough pitch and away from home were to be dismantled and be taken away. And they weren't the only ones that were to leave in May; Mark Creighton and Andy Ferrell soon followed leaving a depleted Harriers squad.
If the above hadn't have happened the following season could've been ever so different.
Following the devastating news the Harriers fans were heartbroken. Their heroes were taken away and given contracts with different clubs and rivals such as Cheltenham Town and Hereford United profited from the Harriers cuts and now, without these players, the unthinkable of a relegation scrap was seeming possible and fresh in the minds of the fans. However, the rebuilding job and the season that followed was remarkable.
The main focus immediately was to get some money into the club for manager Mark Yates to spend on reassembling a squad worthy of equalling the one that had been so unlucky to miss out on the playoff's the season before. On the 9th of July some news came through which would've made the manager much happier but not so much the fans. Long serving midfielder Russ Penn had left the club to join the newly elected Champions, Burton Albion, in a deal that was worth somewhere between £32,000 and £50,000.
This was tempered with the news that popular midfielder Chris McPhee, who had single-handedly turned Harriers previous season around, had signed a two year deal which saw him get the captaincy and also get a free car as part of the deal. Martin Riley (left) had a one year extension added to his contract and he was followed by Matthew Barnes-Homer who had signed on in late June.
A day later and the new look Kidderminster side had their first friendly game against Bromyard Town in Herefordshire. The Harriers ran out the victors in a demolition job on the home side winning 14-0 with goals from McPhee, David McDermott, Brian Smikle, Darryl Knights and Dean Bennett with triallists Kyle Hadley and Aaron Farrell who later went on to sign for the Harriers in amongst the remaining scorers.
Four days later and more good news was on the way for the visit to Stourport Swifts at Walshes Meadow. The Harriers were joined by legendary striker Lee Hughes who had been training with the club due to his friendship with Harriers chairman Barry Norgrove. The player stated to one Harriers fan for definite that he was playing just for fun and had no intention of signing for us. This turned out to be the truth as he later went on to join Notts County who had a strange season of their own as they got promoted from League Two despite their financial problems which were created by Munto Finance.
Back to 'The Reds' and the side was starting to take some shape towards the end of the month with Duane Courtney signing on and then the shock signing of an old friend of Yates in the form of John Finnegan, a 33 year old experienced midfielder who had fallen out with the then Cheltenham boss Martin Allen.
Two days later he made his first appearance wearing the Harriers new blue away shirt in a 2-2 draw with League Two side Port Vale. A mere seven days later it was time for the curtain to be raised as the 2009-2010 Harriers side was to step out onto the Harriers pitch for their game against Hayes and Yeading, newly promoted from the Blue Square South. It was a good result as Kidderminster recorded their first home day victory under Mark Yates when a Matthew Barnes-Homer goal saw the new boys off.
However they failed to build on this success and failed to win for three games as they lost away to Salisbury City and at home to Kettering with a goal-less draw at Ebbsfleet sandwiched in between. It wasn't all doom and gloom though as big target man Robbie Matthews (below) joined from financially blighted Salisbury as they were struggling to pay his wages and Mark Yates took him off their hands in the hope of forming a partnership between him and Barnes-Homer, On his home debut against Kettering Town he hit the bar before getting injured as, previously mentioned, we lost to them 1-0.
Yet signs were good as Kidderminster went on to beat Grays Athletic 3-1 away with a goal from veteran midfielder Dean Bennett and then subsequently went on to beat Altrincham 3-0 a week later with Smikle continuing to haunt the side as he scored two goals against them - both from Kyle Hadley crosses to add to his tally against 'The Robins' as he scored against them in a 4-0 rout the season before.
But inconsistency seemed to be blighting the Harriers as, despite two good wins in a row, they travelled to local club Tamworth on the August Bank Holiday Monday and were beaten comprehensively with Nick Wright and Alex Rodman having a field day against a poor defensive partnership of Gavin Caines and young center-back Tom Sharpe.
The Harriers then faced Eastbourne Borough in the league at home as August rolled into September. Despite beating them twice in the season before the Harriers put out an inadequate performance and the south coast side ran out 2-0 winners.
It wasn't all doom and gloom though, although in the previous two games Harriers had lost to seemingly inferior opposition, we then went on a four match unbeaten run putting Mansfield and Gateshead to the sword at Aggborough and scoring three goals in both games with scores of 3-1 and 3-2 respectively. We had an away draw to Histon sandwiched in between the two games and a 1-1 draw to Forest Green also, with captain Chris McPhee scoring goals in both of the away draws.
The momentum couldn't be kept up and a 3-2 loss to eventual playoff finalists, York City on the 26th of September at the Kit Kat Crescent stopped the mini-run, yet 'The Harriers' didn't let their heads drop and picked themselves up to beat Dean Saunders Wrexham side at Aggborough on the following Tuesday night with Robbie Matthews first goal for the club along with another goal from Brian Smikle sending the Welsh side back to Wrexham defeated and without the three points that they had been wanting.
We then kicked off October with some aplomb as we beat newcomers AFC Wimbledon 1-0 with Barnes-Homer adding yet another goal to his goal tally for the season. Then seven days later on the 10th came the visit of one of the two 'big' sides in the Blue Square Premier as Luton Town, relegated effectively by the league following their thirty points deduction the previous season, visited Aggborough, as did a bumper crowd with over 2000 Harriers fans turning up for the occasion.
All seemed to be going well when in the 13th minute the Harriers frontman Barnes-Homer put the home side ahead with a good finish after a ball from Duane Courtney. Things got even better for Kidderminster after Rossi Jarvis saw red minutes later however Robbie Matthews was also dismissed for an apparent stamp on goalkeeper Tyler and despite us holding the lead into half time Luton came back and won the game 2-1 with a goal in the dying seconds.
Again the Harriers showed resilience come the following week when they beat Crawley town at Aggborough with a excruciatingly late goal from the heavily criticised centre back Gavin Caines. This win pushed the Harriers into 7th place in the league and ideas of a possible playoff push were creeping into the minds of some sections of the support.
Mere days later, on the 20th, the rumour mill went into overdrive as Cheltenham manager Martin Allen was put on 'gardening leave' following an apparent racist remark in one of the town's nightclubs. Usually this would be something that wouldn't impact all that much on the fortunes and state of the Harriers but, with Mark Yates and Neil Howarth both being ex-Cheltenham players and with Yates' reputation on the rise after doing a good job so far at the Harriers, immediately rumours were flying about that Yates was going to join them if or when Allen eventually went. This ultimately went on to be true.
On the same night the Harriers dispatched Bromsgrove with some ease in the Worcestershire Senior Cup. Another cup match followed straight after with the visit of Blue Square North side Fleetwood Town, who were heavily tipped for promotion with their big budget. Their team boasted ex-Aston Villa left back Alan Wright.
After an initial 0-0 bore draw at home, and with the prospect of an away trip to Northampton, Fleetwood went on to win 3-1 in the replay which saw Lee Baker (below) dismissed for an apparent shocking challenge. This perhaps spurred on the signing of Danny Andrew on loan from Peterborough United who proceeded to keep Baker out of the side for some time. The left back made his debut one day after his signing in a 2-0 defeat away at Cambridge.
Harriers had a chance to pick themselves up when Oxford United visited Aggborough in a game that few expected the Harriers to win. Oxford had seemingly bought every form player from the previous season in an attempt to finally regain their place in the promised land of the Football League; such players as Histon's top scorer Jack Midson and ex-Harriers favourite Mark Creighton had joined the club, and 'The U's' brought down 2000 fans to Aggborough, easily outnumbering the home support and Harriers were already missing McPhee and Baker who were instrumental in the Harriers league position at the time. Surely the Harriers couldn't win this one?
Amazingly Harriers took the lead in the 2nd minute from big targetman Robbie Matthews as he scored to silence the carnival atmosphere that had eminanted from the Oxford support before the game. Again Harriers scored in the 18th minute to put themselves 2-0 up following a thumping free kick from Barnes-Homer. It all seemed too good to be true and, whilst former Harrier James Constable scored a penalty, in the second half Matthews netted his second to restore the two goal lead that the Harriers had and his holding up of the ball late on lead the team to victory.
The Harriers then won again seven days later away at Kettering to keep themselves in 8th place. A 2-2 draw against Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground followed and two days after that, on the 26th of November following his England C call-up, Barnes-Homer left to join Luton for around £75,000 with Ryan Charles coming the other way on loan and Damian Spencer joining on loan from Kettering, however the two new front men couldn't score because on the 28th we lost 1-0 to Wimbledon at home with a poor performance.
December started with the Harriers dropping points from both of their first two league games. A 0-0 draw at home to Tamworth was all the Harriers could muster and then we went on to lose 2-0 to Stevenage four days later on the 5th of December. Harriers then visited Matlock Town in the Derbyshire countryside and won 2-0 in the FA Trophy to secure a game against Lewes in the 2nd round.
Ten days later though and what seemed to be the inevitable had happened as Mark Yates and Neil Howarth left the club to join Cheltenham Town following the eventual dismissal of Martin Allen with ex-boss Steve Cotterill turning down the opportunity to take up his former post once again. It wasn't something that was all too surprising as Yates nearly left in the summer following the extreme budget cuts and he would've most likely have become annoyed with the constant fire sales and the fact he had to build a new squad seemingly every summer.
Initially the names mentioned for the job were Jim Harvey, Steve Burr - who later went on to sign a new contract with Stalybridge thus in theory ruling him out and Jeff Kenna who was working for Birmingham City in a community role. John Finnegan took over in the meantime and in his first game he saw his Kidderminster side comfortably beat Chester City 2-0 on Boxing Day, yet after Chester's financial problems the result was subsequently made void as they went bust, the first club in the Conference for some years to do so.
Finnegan couldn't guide 'The Harriers' to back to back victories though and on the 28th December they lost 2-1 to old rivals Rushden and Diamonds in a very poor mistake strewn game at Nene Park, with Matthews' goal being the only consolation. A cracking goal by the highly rated Lee Tomlin decided the game.
Kidderminster Harriers were then supposed to play the Chester City return fixture at the Deva Stadium on New Years Day 2010 however adverse weather meant the game was postponed and never played as Chester were expelled from the league in February and were wound up in March following the dealings of Steven Vaughan.
We played very few games in January with a 3-2 Trophy win over Lewes being the first game they played all month due to the wintery weather conditions. The Lewes game in the FA Trophy on a cold Tuesday night at Aggborough was significant because of the rumour that the Harriers successor to Mark Yates would be in the ground somewhere casting their eyes over the games proceedings. Jim Harvey and Jeff Kenna were both present adding fuel to the fire that one of those would take over. Harvey had already left Chester to be replaced by ex-Halesowen man Morrell Maison so seemingly clearing the way for the favourite to walk into the Harriers managers job. However a representative of a manager was there which was all revealed two days later when Stalybridge manager Steve Burr (right) agreed to take over the reigns at Aggborough for two and a half years.
Harriers had paid substantial compensation to the Northern club for the ex-Northwich gaffer who promised attacking football as he arrived at the helm at the Harriers. As happened when Yates joined Cheltenham, Burr agreed not to go back to previous club Stalybridge to pinch players to play for the Harriers.
His first game was, on paper, a tough one but Burr guided us to a 2-2 draw away at Crawley Town. This was followed three days later against Grays Athletic at home as Harriers thumped four past the side who eventually finished bottom of the Blue Square Premier (minus Chester)
The Harriers next game was a big one, not in terms of size or reputation of the opposition but in terms of the occasion for the fans of both sides. It was the derby between Kidderminster and Worcester in a clash for local pride.
The two sides had not met for a considerable amount of time in a competitive fixture and around 800 fans travelled down to St Georges Lane on the Saturday to find the game called off due to a strip of frozen ground by the main stand even though it was an early spring day with lovely sunshine. On the following Monday nearly 600 Kidderminster fans went down 'The Lane' and packed the away end. There was a fantastic atmosphere that included an impromptu volleyball game with a ball that had been kicked into the fans. The Harriers ran out easy winners with a second half Chris McPhee goal.
The following Saturday the Harriers travelled to future FA Trophy opponents Oxford who, although they were still top of the table, were faltering and we held them to a scoreless draw. Harriers then went on to beat Worcester again 3-2 in the Worcestershire Senior Cup and then Forest Green 2-1 at home in the league.
It was then time for the big FA Trophy quarter final against Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium, a big game for the Harriers as they were in search of another FA trophy final and more importantly the money that comes with it. Something which made the game even more special to the Harriers faithful was the fact that three days previously Kidderminster legend Marcus Bignot (below) had re-signed for the club where he had made his name originally. Once again Kidderminster took an impressive away following with 410 making the trip down and, again like Worcester, the travelling support created a brilliant atmosphere and rewarded with another brilliant performance.
In the 16th minute winger Brian Smikle scored the opening goal following a counter attack and eventual pass from Dean Bennett. The home side weren't lying down and taking it though as they forced Ross Atkins - on loan from Derby County into a string of fine saves. Oxford went on to equalise through Matt Green but Kidderminster weren't done yet when Robbie Matthews scored the decisive winner for Harriers in the 86th minute after a run from the right and a ball to him straight in front of goal by Smikle. The winner gave us a double header semi final game against Stevenage Borough.
The Harriers then went on to keep on their unbeaten run going under Burr by beating Histon 3-0 at Aggborough, earning him the Manager of the Month award, and meaning Harriers were unbeaten in the whole of February.
The momentum then seemed to be draining from the Harriers unlikely push for a playoff spot when they drew 2-2 to Ebbsfleet as 'The Fleet' scored two fantastic goals to earn them a well deserved draw. This was followed with a 0-0 draw away at Eastbourne.
A week later and it was the huge Trophy clash at Aggborough as Harriers faced Stevenage in the semi-final first leg. Stevenage had now got a hold on the top of the league after Oxford had appeared to once again self destruct and Kidderminster fans would've had the images and memories in their head of the 4-2 win last season against them and history looked to be repeating itself as Stevenage took the lead in the 26th minute from David Bridges but Harriers then hit back from Gavin Caines, the centre back hitting a hard shot after a short corner to rally the Harriers home support who were some 2000 strong.
However by half time the game appeared over as Manny Odubade scored in the 38th minute and Bridges grabbed another just before half time. The Harriers then fell apart like a poorly constructed pyramid of cards in the second half when the pacey ex-Harrier Chris Beardsley scored another past Harriers goalkeeper Ross Atkins. Martin Riley was having a poor game and gifted Beardley his last goal, and Boro's fifth, in the 83rd minute.
The performance attracted some highly deserved criticism of Steve Burr and his tactics for the first time since he arrived with the formation looking all wrong as Harriers started with Adam Boyes and Darryl Knights up front being bullied by the big team of Stevenage. The Harriers truly had no chance and there was still the replay to play and the prospect of it seemed a sorry one to some.
Before the second leg the Harriers succumbed away to Luton when they lost 3-1 to a side who had turned into a free scoring one with Kevin Gallen starting to bang them in. We then travelled down to Stevenage on the 20th and saved face by drawing 0-0 and keeping a clean sheet but Stevenage had chances to score but 'The Harriers' never really created anything like the effort they needed to win nevermind turn round a four goal deficit.
This was then followed with two losses at home to York and Salisbury respectively with the latter being down to a complete defensive error as Luke Prosser (the replacement for Gavin Caines who had gone to Luton on loan after the York game) headed the ball past his own goalkeeper and, as the ball was rolling towards the line, Tubbs kicked the ball in. However, for the first time in five games, Kidderminster then won 1-0 against Cambridge to end March on a relative high.
The final month of the season saw a mixed bag of results and poor performances for the Harriers with just two wins out of nine games. And one of them was in the Worcestershire Senior Cup.
On the 3rd of April the Harriers lost 3-2 to Altrincham with Matthews netting two goals to silence his critics, albeit temporarily, and this was proceeded by a 1-1 draw to Rushden at Aggborough and we could've snatched it at the death but Chris Mcphee missed another penalty, driving the ball straight at Dale Roberts in the Rushden goal.
The Harriers then travelled up north for the next two games with both of them in the space of two days. On the Thursday night Barrow beat the Harriers 1-0, with the only bright spot of that game being Dean Bennett making his 350th appearance, but two days later the Harriers got their other win with two second half goals from McPhee at Gateshead. A draw against Hayes and Yeading away meant little by now but the game had some significance for 17yr old Harriers fan Morgan Nock when he stepped in to replace the injured fourth official for the game after only being qualified as an official for seven months.
The Harriers then met Stevenage for another clash which held great significance for the latter side as they could clinch promotion to the promised land of the Football League if they beat us. Few were in doubt that they would do it despite Harriers spoiling Burton's promotion party a year before. Stevenage ran out 2-0 winners and that sparked a mass pitch invasion from the Boro fans who had travelled down en mass.
Three days later and things didn't get much better as on the Tuesday night of the 20th Barrow did the double over us and won 2-1 after two goalkeeping howlers from Jasbir Singh, thus effectively in many peoples eyes meaning he wasn't going to get a contract the season after. The season then finished on the 24th April with a 3-3 draw against Mansfield at Field Mill after being 3-0 down at half time. Kidderminster rallied and goals from McPhee, Jack Byrne (right) and Knights saw the Harriers grab a draw much to the delight of the away support with some sections dressed in fancy dress.
The season wasn't all a waste though as we beat Halesowen Town in the Worcestershire Senior Cup infront of 454 fans thanks to goals from James Lawrie and Smikle.
The season overall was one of much disruption and one of great inconsistency. There were highs such as the Trophy away wins at Oxford and Worcester and lows such as the home game against Stevenage in the same competition and that was one of the worst games for many years for some Harriers fans. A fact that was made worse by the amount of fans in attendance and the significance of the game.
After the last day of the season there wasn't a definitive retained/released list but on the 4th of May it was made public that neither of the goalkeepers, Dean Coleman - who had performed admirably in the early part of the season before getting injured - and Jasbir Singh would not be retained. Robbie Matthews was also transfer listed, unsurprisingly with his apparent high wage, but perhaps also compounded with the fans turning against him for little reason apart from him going out of form and being played in the wrong position.
Gary Whild was also brought in from Redditch United as an assistant manager with John Finnegan going to a player/coaching role. Two days later it was confirmed that Darryl Knights wouldn't be kept on, which was also greeted with mixed reception. To some it was a good move as the player had produced little and failed to live up to expectations in the two years he had here but it cannot be doubted that under Burr Knights improved and perhaps this hinted to yet again a financial reason for his release.
It wasn't just players leaving though because May saw the arrival of Lee Vaughan, a right back from AFC Telford, who has a reputation for a fiery style of play and also Danny Lewis re-signing from Redditch after playing superbly for them in recent seasons. He had originally been released from Aggborough after our first season in the Conference.
Little under a week later Brian Smikle (left) departed for Cheltenham as his contract ran out in the summer and he joined old boss Mark Yates in League 2. The day after and it was revealed that Burr had finally got another of his targets in the shape of Keith Briggs, from his old club Stalybridge, after his contract ran out but there was competition from league and other BSP clubs but his ties with the manager meant he joined Kidderminster on a two year contract.
Six days later Duane Courtney left to join York City which was to be expected after the signing of Vaughan and on the 4th of June it was announced that the captain during the last few games of the season, and close contender for player of the year, left back Lee Baker had rejected our offer of a years contract as the ex-WBA player wanted a contract of double that length and has now joined Newport County who will be competing against us in the 2010/11 season. This has also caused unrest amongst the fans after Baker said that he wanted to join a club that had some ambition.
The remainder of the summer will yet again be another interesting one with Burr coming under criticism from fans already about the letting go of some players such as Baker. It will be interesting to see how he turns it around and makes the best of his reportedly small budget and wins the fans back over. He definitely has to sign a striker because after losing Matthew Barnes-Homer in late 2009 we have missed him no end and have yet to replace him.
Can he and his new number 2 Gary Whild do it?
Photo's © KHFC