Indeed, the team did settle, so much so in fact, that over the next nine months Harriers lost a mere five League games. For most of the second half of the season Kidderminster were firmly planted at the top of the table, largely I believe through not only the management of Molby but also as a result of the midfield quality of Mike Marsh, left, who deservedly went on to win the award of Football Conference player of the year.
Ian Foster, below right, up front was also one of the supporters' favourites during the course of the season, notching up an impressive seventeen League goals. This was in addition to a solid defence, which seemed to be led by the unflappable and ever-dependable Adie Smith.
Looking back at how the 1999/00 season unfolded in the Conference, even going back as far as the Christmas period, it would not have been laughable to talk of the Harriers as the title favourites. At this time we were slowly starting to take a firm grip on the title race, though our main rivals Rushden & Diamonds were always a threat, with their solid all-round team, a large fan-base and strong financial backing. From the beginning of March we were always in with a good chance of launching a successful title challenge. In fact during this period the bookies could not really separate between us and Rushden as favourites.
The turning point in my mind was three-fold; namely the home game in early March against rivals Stevenage, a potentially difficult away trip to Doncaster, and finally the big one - an home against second-placed Rushden and Diamonds.
I remember the Stevenage game as one that could have gone either way judging by the first-half performance from both sides. However I can only assume that confidence in the Harriers camp was at an all-time high and that Molby's team talk at half-time was inspirational, as the boys turned on a gritty display to win 3-1, with Ian Foster scoring a classic goal, made from the half-way line.
The away game at Doncaster, which we won 2-1, was the result that made me feel that we already had one hand on the Conference trophy. As far as I was concerned, the only way we could possibly fail was if we threw it away to Rushden on April 8th at Aggborough, in what had long been billed as the championship decider.
On that day it felt like the carnival had come to Hoo Road.
In front of a rare all-ticket 6,250 sell-out crowd we were treated to a brass band that roared around the ground and thousands of red and white balloons released from the centre circle in anticipation of the tie. Over the next ninety minutes the Harriers turned on a vintage display in a heated game that belied their Conference status. The result finished as 2-0 to Kidderminster with Foster and ex-Rotherham player Andrew Brownrigg scoring the crucial goals.
Again Mike Marsh turned in a masterful display which only served to remind the Aggborough faithful what a revelation he had been over the course of the season. Added to my pleasure of seeing the Harriers defeat a classy Rushden side, I also won on a Grand National flutter that day and felt that my betting slip of Kidderminster to win the League was finally as good as the money itself.
Following the Rushden victory, the remaining results which took us to the end of the season read: played 7, won 4, drew 2, lost 1. On April 29th 2000 Kidderminster Harriers finally clinched the Nationwide Conference title at Woking, in front of 3,000 fans, ironically losing the game - a defeat that was only our second in twenty four outings. Even so, we had finally gained promotion to the Football League, winning by a clear 9 points.
The final table read:
|2||Rushden & Diamonds||42||21||13||8||71||42||76|
Obviously the feeling of winning the title was sweet, having followed the progress of the Harriers for so long. Having witnessed such lows over the past decade it was pleasing to see the team promoted to a division in which many supporters of the club felt they should have been part of six years previously. Certainly, champagne supplies were in short supply around the Kidderminster area following the conclusion of the Conference programme.
I remember Jan Molby, left, summing up the efforts of the team for the 1999/00 season saying that on reflection the best side had won it. I believe he also mentioned that apart from getting promotion from the First Division to the Premier League, this promotion was the biggest in English football.
I'm sure he enjoyed a drink or two following such a personal and professional achievement. Naturally, Jan being Jan, he didn't waste much time before turning his attention to the season ahead; Kidderminster's first taste of League football.