Date: 11-05-20The season in review. Part 1By Harriershane

11-05-20 - Opinion - The season in review. Part 1

Ronan Keating once sung that “Life is a rollercoaster. Just gotta ride it”.  For Kidderminster Harriers 2019/20 National League North campaign even that feels like a gross understatement when you reflect on the season that was.

The Harriers entered the close season without a manager after the well-publicised spat between owner Colin Gordon & Mark Yates and after what felt like an eternity the former Crystal Palace defender, John Pemberton, was brought in from Chesterfield’s academy to lead the charge. His appointment was met with some positivity as the straight-talking Lancastrian was seen as the man to rid Harriers of their notoriously soft underbelly.

Goalkeeper Cameron Gregory was brought in on loan from Shrewsbury Town whilst Pemberton was able to utilise his contacts to bring in the England Youth international Rhys Williams from Liverpool, adding to the players signed whilst the club was managerless.

John Pemberton
John Pemberton
We started the season with him

The season started with a home draw against Leamington in front of 1551 fans as the Brakes hit back with a late equaliser with only ten men. An inauspicious start then as Harriers travelled to AFC Telford three days later to turn in what could only be described as an abject performance.

The first KHIST stadium clean up took place on the morning of the game up at Bradford (Park Avenue) with Harriers routing their hosts who had lost their two opening games by the same scoreline; 5-0. Harriers were only able to put three past them, but the maiden win was all that mattered. The game was notable also for Correy Davidson getting his first goal for the club, whilst Rhys Williams also grabbed his first senior goal.

Gloucester City then came to Aggborough for another Tuesday night fixture and walked away with a 3-2 victory after falling two goals behind in a game famed for a penalty given against Cliff Moyo for an offence committed a couple of yards outside the box. Post-match Pemberton bemoaned his wafer-thin squad in a clear plea for investment. Days later, the club released a statement detailing that Colin Gordon was selling up, much to the relief of many.

Curzon Ashton were then dispatched by an Ashley Chambers goal before Chester FC saw Harriers off by the same scoreline; 1-0. The August Bank Holiday fixture pitted Harriers against Kettering Town where the Reds defied an hour of mediocrity to come from two goals down and win by an astounding 5-3. The month was rounded off by a one goal home defeat to Alfreton Town and the loan signings of Jamie Sharman (Chesterfield) and Ollie Shenton (Stoke City).

Into September then when arguably the first real signs of the struggles Harriers would have all season reared their heads. Away defeats at Brackley Town and Spennymoor Town started and ended the month, whilst an Alex Prosser goal was cancelled out in a 1-1 draw up at fellow strugglers Blyth Spartans. The rare high point was the 2-0 victory over Altrincham at home when the team controlled the game and the club hosted the Norwegian fan club for the first time this season.

There was cause for optimism then when we hosted Stafford Rangers in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup the week after the Altrincham game. Despite dominating the Harriers had no cutting edge and Rangers stood firm for a goalless draw before teaching us a lesson at Marston Road. They finished the season bottom of the Northern Premier League.

Questions over John Pemberton’s tenure got louder and he would only last five more games. October came and went as a flurry of postponements meant Harriers only played twice; beating Farsley Celtic at home and losing by the odd goal at Darlington.

There was better news off the pitch as it was announced that Gordon had relinquished control to Richard Lane, but stayed on in a consultancy role.

November started well with a surprise draw at the then leaders York City before the team in second place, Kings Lynn Town, put four past Harriers in a 4-2 win for the Linnets. The whole situation came to a head though as Curzon Ashton gained their first ever win over Harriers: defeating them 3-0 in the FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round. It was a truly dreadful effort with no chances created at all and, ultimately, no time left for John Pemberton. He left the club a couple of days later having tendered his resignation. Russ Penn stepped in as interim boss.

The statement released by the club was bizarre, as they felt that:

“with the players at our disposal and … a considerable budget for this division, we should be in a far better position…”

James Shan
James Shan
Then we tried our luck with him

Most fans questioned the budget line, and with a squad of very few senior players propped up by loanees, who could blame them? Penn’s first game was a home defeat to Southport, decided by a defensive error – a common theme.

December saw the first sub 1000 attendance at Aggborough in a league game for a decade as Gateshead escaped with a 1-1 draw on a chilly Tuesday night. On top of the improved performance from the team was the emergence of Alex Prosser who had fallen out of favour under Pemberton. Given his performances for the rest of the season, we can call this game the beginning of his renaissance.

Between the Gateshead and Boston United game came a shock; the appointment of the former WBA interim coach Jimmy Shan as manager until the end of the season. Shan, of course, stood in at The Hawthorns following Darren Moore’s sacking, so it came as a surprise that someone of his calibre would come here.

The new manager bounce didn’t work in his first game as Boston swept us to the side by a 1-3 scoreline. Things were different at Guiseley though when the Harriers picked up their first win in eight games with Ashley Chambers grabbing his first goal in nine games and Sam Austin sealing the win with a goal that won the Harriers Online Goal of the Season poll.

The upturn in performance continued at Altrincham as a depleted side held their hosts to a 1-1 draw and we could have been considered unfortunate not to claim all three points.

Boxing Day saw the highlight of the season so far when Hereford FC came to Aggborough for a fiercely contested derby. A great time then for Ollie Shenton to open his account for Harriers, grabbing a brace in a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Brackley ended the mini-run though, as Harriers fell to a two goal defeat and lost Rhys Williams to suspension.

That takes us up to the end of 2019 and 2020 will be with you on Wednesday.

Photo © KHFC

Part 2 can be found here