Venue: Boundary Park Date: 24-02-24 Oldham Athletic 1 Harriers 2 Att: 11,881 (away fans: 705)

24-02-24. Oldham Athletic 1 Kidderminster Harriers 2. Match report

A day for defenders to score and to defend

Report: Harry Taylor

To quote Don Corleone, just when you start to give up hope, The Harriers find a way of dragging you back in.

Phil Brown’s Kidderminster Harriers upset all expectations to win 2-1 and spoil a homecoming party for Oldham Athletic’s intrepid chairman Frank Rothwell, who had rowed the Atlantic for Alzheimer’s UK. After such a feat, Latics fans would have been hoping that their play-off chasing side would provide a similarly courageous effort. Instead it would be a performance to forget for the home team whose 11,800 provided Oldham’s biggest gate for fifteen years.

The visiting Harriers were hoping to bounce back after an abject performance against Dorking Wanderers was followed by a footballing lesson from Gateshead on Tuesday night. New signing Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was on the bench, but Cole Kpekawa and Todd Miller were not named among the sixteen, despite their signings being announced on Saturday morning.

Roared on by more than 700 away fans the Harriers imposed themselves on the game early. Half chances were snatched at by Krystian Pearce and Sam Bellis, but the Harriers were having the better of the play.

The pressing that fans have become accustomed to since Brown’s arrival was in evidence, Bellis and Amari Morgan-Smith leading from the front, with Shane Byrne and Zak Brown keeping the pressure on behind. Jack Lambert and Ashley Hemmings were finding acres of space between the Oldham lines, with Lambert in particular causing the home side no-end of problems. However despite the endeavours of the forward players, Harriers opener came from the most unlikely of sources – in the most unlikely of ways.

Successive head tennis saw the ball fall to Alex Penny just inside his own half. He precariously raced forward beating three players, before to the astonishment of everyone, rolling the ball past Matthew Hudson from twenty five yards – his first goal since his famous one against West Ham Utd in 2022.

Oldham had no answer to Harriers’ efforts but were unable to get a foothold on the game either. The Latics fans had loudly booed their side into the dressing room at half time, not in keeping with the charitable message of the day. The only note of concern was Shane Byrne limping off the pitch having pulled his hamstrung. It forced Brown into an early change with Regan Griffiths replacing the captain. It meant Harriers’ 4-2-2-2 became a 5-3-2 with Hemmings dropping back to play as an auxiliary wing-back.

HT: 0 – 1

The change meant Harriers’ control of the game weakened and the pressing that had kept the Latics boxed fell away, paving the way for Oldham’s equaliser three minutes into the second half.

The Oldham striker Mike Fondop came inside the area from the right, cutting back for Nathan Sheron to put across Christian Dibble’s goal into the far corner. It was a goal that reaped the benefits of Harriers’ lack of communication and understanding after the formation change.

It was a moment where Harriers fans will have wondered if their side was about to wilt under the glare of 12,000 bouyant Oldham fans.

The fears will have intensified minutes later when Oldham had their best chance to take the lead. An improvised overhead kick by Sheron caused confusion among the otherwise imperious Harriers back line as the centre halves left the ball to each other. It was pounced on by Josh Lundstram who looked certain to score but his half volley was palmed away by Dibble and unconvincingly scrambled away by the defence.

However shaky their defending may have briefly looked it was another one of their stable who gave Harriers the lead. Another hard-won corner was swung in from the right by Hemmings, Hudson flapped at it and Reiss McNally put a header into the far corner, sparking jubilant scenes among the travelling fans.

It saw the Harriers try to contain the Latics and the increasingly weary legs of Harriers’ forward line try to play on the break. It was a risky strategy for a side, but McNally, Pearce and Penny repelled wave after wave of Oldham attacks. Heading, kicking, marking, rinsing and repeating as they dealt with half an hour of long balls. It left Oldham frustrated and the ever-lovable management team of Micky Mellon and Gary Brabin rattled.

Harriers tired but dug deep into their reserve to scramble the ball away when under pressure. They dealt with late free-kicks which Oldham did not make the most of and could have netted a third in stoppage time when Bellis chased a lone ball before rounding Hudson and hitting the post.

Eventually referee Richard Eley mercifully blew the whistle to spark elation among Harriers fans in a game that will live long in the memory. It will have had shades of spoiling the party at Darlington in 2003, when they beat Darlington in front of 11,800 fans as they opend the ill-fated Reynolds arena. Nearly twenty one years later they were upsetting the narrative again in remarkable circumstances.

Every player had their part in Harriers win, and the resolute defending made for a frustrating afternoon for the Latics.

FT: 1 – 2

Goal for Oldham Athletic: Sheron 49

Goals for Harriers: Penny 22, McNally 59

The Harriers Online MotM is: Jack Lambert

Talk about the game here

Latest table and stats here

Oldham AthleticGoalsSubsTimeCards
Hammond 60 
Fondop 66
Green 60 
Gardner 84
Dallas 66 
Byrne 46 
Lambert 77 
Griffiths 46 
Omotayo 77 
Mr Richard Eley