The curtain has come down on our 3rd season as a league club and I'm still stuck as to how to describe the campaign. One thing is for sure though, there is no doubt we should all be mighty pleased that the minnows from Worcestershire have gone the whole season without the word 'relegation' crossing any of our lips.
We have comfortably held our own in this league, and that is a great achievement for a club of our stature and resources. However, some people will undoubtedly be left feeling a little disappointed with our poor end to the season. After wins over Cambridge and Southend in March we were 9th in the league, two points off third place and had a game or games in hand on nearly all the teams above us. Wrexham, the side who claimed the third automatic spot, had played the same games as us and had the same points.
A grand finale wasn't to be; a run of just one win in eleven to finish the season put any play-off hopes firmly to rest. The side suffered with injuries, suspensions and poor performances and our hopes of a May trip to Cardiff disappeared faster than Abdou Sall at a Nuneaton training session.
The manager, Ian Britton, has certainly got a lot to smile about though. The sceptics were quick to criticise the appointment of the rookie boss and a fair few people were predicting a relegation fight. 'He's got no experience' and 'he has no league links' were the favoured remarks. However, Brit got on with the job and brought in experienced midfielders Sean Parrish and Sean Flynn to the side.
Flynn was a notable capture, highlighted by the fact that Tranmere fans were very sorry to see him leave. The Kiddy squad was small (the reserves went in the close season) but we could all see that we probably had a half decent first eleven to put out if everyone could stay fit. The start of the season was a strange affair - we drew 6 out of the first 8 games and bar the 4-3 win over Exeter, we weren't serving up the most exciting football. Fans were happy to see this away, but at home, people were frustrated by Harriers lack of ability to dominate games - a pattern that would continue throughout the season. However, Brit was proving that he could organise a side and that we wouldn't be easy to beat. Brit also soon proved he was very good at picking up the phone to our neighbours up the road.
The day after our 4-0 defeat at Forest in the league cup, Mark Clyde and JJ Melligan were added to the squad, on loan, courtesy of Wolves. The club was making no secret of the lack of money available for permanent additions, so Brit was prepared to try and use the loan system to our advantage. And it certainly worked! September and October were good months and Kiddy recorded away wins at Southend, Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury and Swansea and good home wins against Cambridge and Jan Molby's Hull (oh how we rejoiced)!
Mark Clyde only made 4 appearances for the Reds but it was enough for us to see he was too good for the Third Division. JJ Melligan was amongst the goals from the start and Kiddy eventually secured his services for the whole season. JJ could blow hot and cold, but we shouldn't underestimate the difference he made to the side as an attacking force. Ian Britton was deservedly crowned manager of the month for October and all the talk was of a charge for the play-offs. The only blip in October was a 2 nil home defeat to Macclesfield, and this should have been heeded as a reminder to the growing ranks of optimists as to just how cruel football can be.
The curse of manager of the month struck and Harriers didn't record a league win in November and went out to Rushden in the FA Cup after a replay. Kiddy fans didn't know it then, but October was to be Harriers best month of the season as the Reds struggled to find any consistency from then on. The minor bright spot in November was a very late win over Swindon in the LDV Mickey mouse cup - Abdou Sall scored his last goal for Kiddy and then surprisingly went on loan to Oxford at the end of the month, never to be seen in a Reds shirt again.
Britton continued to use the loan system to freshen up the squad as Coleman was brought in from Wolves (October) and young striker Andy Bishop arrived from Walsall in November. Bishop scored on his debut at Torquay and looked a sure fire bet for helping Bo and JJ out with the goalscoring duties. But defeat at Hartlepool and then at home to York put Harriers 11th and fans began asking themselves why they'd let themselves get so excited. However, a great win at Wrexham, 3 points at home to Orient and a battling draw at Bury over the festive period gave us cause to look upwards again. The win at Wrexham now looks more impressive given the fact they were probably the best team of the 2nd half of the season and JJ's goal at the Racecourse Ground is surely a candidate for goal of the season.
Those pesky Diamonds knocked us down a peg or two in January and inconsistency was still the buzzword following wins over Bury and Bournemouth and defeats to Darlo and Oxford. Brit was banging on about defensive errors quite a bit so he brought in Dion Scott on a non-contract basis. The big, no-nonsense defender started well, and even scored on his debut at Carlisle, but late season performances showed he too had caught the 'cock-up-itis' bug from his new mates.
3 wins out of 4 in February, culminating in the 5-2 rout of hapless Exeter, amazingly put us 4th in the league, although the table was tighter than one of Jordan's bras. We had 15 games to go and a decent return of points would surely see us make the play-offs for the first time in our history. Alas, the rollercoaster hit another dip and we conceded 6 in two games going down 3-0 at Boston and losing 3-1 at home to the impressive Scunthorpe. Brit brought in further defensive reinforcements with the arrival of Wes Morgan and 6 points were won from Southend and Cambridge.
However, the Kidderminster public told the Harriers what they thought of the club's play-off chances as only 1900 home fans turned up for the game against Southend. Only a few more turned up for the game with Shrewsbury and Kiddy began on their awful end of season points haul.
Defeats at Lincoln, Oxford and Macclesfield dented our good away record and, despite a brief glimmer of hope after a one-nil win at Rochdale, the lads didn't have enough in their tank for one final push. Harriers finished the season going down 4-1 to Hull and drawing 1-1 with Bristol Rovers.
So our third season in the league finishes with our second best finish when, for most of the way, we took it for granted we would better the 10th position achieved in 2001/2002. Different clubs will have different definitions of success and Kiddy will, once again, be proud of avoiding a relegation dogfight on the smallest budget in the league.