|Venue: Roots Hall Date: 02-09-23 Southend Utd 2 Harriers 1 Att: 5402 (away fans: 141)
Harriers denied a point at the death
Kidderminster Harriers were denied a well-deserved point at the death by a stoppage time winner by Southend, in an encouraging performance that still left them walk away from Essex without a point and just outside the relegation places. A 93rd minute lucky winner from Callum Powell meant Amari-Morgan Smith’s equally fortuitous equaliser was all in vain.
There were changes from Harriers’ latest 0-0 home draw on Bank Holiday Monday. Ashley Hemmings and Zak Brown returned to the lineup, but otherwise it was Penn’s preferred five at the back, with Reiss McNally playing alongside Krystian Pearce and Nat Knight-Percival with Morgan-Smith leading the line. For Southend, four goal hitman Harry Cardwell was the targetman with the delightfully named Harry Taylor playing at centre half.
It was a typical end of summer away affair at Roots Hall. Harriers fans could be seen on the Southend sea front, near the famous lengthy pier. The 141 travelling fans clearly liked to be beside the seaside, and it was good to be at a proper ground for an away game. More than 5,000 were at the ground with the Shrimpers continuing their ongoing protests against their owner Ron Martin.
The first half was played without incident as both sides cancelled each other out. The best Harriers had to cheer for were a few fruitless corners and a wayward Jack Lambert free kick, while Southend barely troubled Christian Dibble in the Harriers net. Despite the lack of excitement, it was at least a better half from the away side with plenty of attacking intent and initiative. Certainly more than was seen than in 90 minutes against Ebbsfleet Utd as they matched Southend who, despite their points deduction, are a form side in the division.
HT: 0 – 0
The game burst into life eight minutes into the second half. Work on the right saw Noor Husin play a ball behind the defence to Cardwell who slotted it simply under a diving Dibble to give them a lead.
With the away side’s lack of goals this season going one behind would be worrying for Harriers yet they stepped up immediately as a through ball was played down the left to a marauding Brown. He looked inside to find nobody in the channel, Morgan-Smith behind the play but he was sent over by a Southend defender. Yet the referee gave a free kick the other way – to the disbelief of Kidderminster fans – a pattern that would become familiar in this half.
The promising interplay continued but led to some frustrating moments. Good work by Joe Leesley, after a cleared corner from the right, saw the midfielder swing a ball in from his left foot towards Pearce and Knight-Percival, but it was missed by both defenders. Soon after another cross came in, this time from Caleb Richards, but again missed all the players in the box. It was the final third where Harriers were found wanting, but momentum was swinging their way.
Lambert’s energy and runs were creating chances, and Barry Maguire, on for Brown was starting to shape and dictate play. It was through the on-loan Scottish midfielder that Harriers’ goal, still only their third of the campaign came when smart play in the midfield saw Maguire pick up the ball 25 yards out. He hit an arrowing drive which looked to set the net bulging, but instead cannoned back off the post. But all was not lost as Morgan-Smith, who looked like he was out of puff after 60 minutes, buried the rebound from just inside the area.
The game was there for the taking for Harriers. The marauding side from last season was back as the confidence began to flow, and every player in a red and white shirt seemed to have an extra yard in them. It nearly, and should have, led to them taking the lead as Morgan-Smith managed to bustle the ball off a Southend defender defending a high pass. He played the ball to Leesley, whose second half harked back to the Leesley that helped drag the Harriers into the playoffs last season, and he turned the ball to Lambert on the left side of the area with his back to goal.
The ex-Darlo man turned and swung a shot goalbound that looked about to squeeze past the Southend goalkeeper, but it lacked the venom required and was easily caught. Kai Lissimore and Gerry McDonagh were both on now, the latter being sent to the far left to stretch the game, but still proved to be frustrating. Dibble’s distribution continued to be laboured and lacking urgency despite the Harriers looking like a win was within their grasp.
In his post match interview on Hereford and Worcester radio, Russ Penn praised the side’s game management, which signalled that perhaps he had sent them out looking to get a point. If that was the case it still wasn’t to be early into stoppage time.
Jason Demetriou sent the ball in from the left, Knight-Percival’s challenge meant the ball came awkwardly off Cardwell, but Callum Powell was there to finish. It was a sucker punch for an encouraging Harriers performance, if still one without many chances. Tricky Trev on Hereford and Worcester was talking post match about a Hereford FC performance that had much better effort but lacked a cutting edge. It seems the issues at Edgar Street are the same as those across the county boundaries.
The final action of note was a high ball from a free kick sent in by Leesley which saw Pearce leap up and get a head to it only to be cleared out by home goalkeeper Collin Andeng Ndi in a moment that resembled Manchester United’s Andre Onana clearing out a Wolves attacker a few weeks ago which led to a referee’s apology. Much like then, despite the howls of injustice from the fans, the referee didn’t give it and instead awarded a free kick to Southend.
It capped off a dire performance second half by him and his near side linesman, who also gave fouls against Leesley and Morgan-Smith to the bemusement of away fans.
It was an encouraging performance from us but one that still leaves Harriers with only three goals after seven games, and if it wasn’t for Southend’s points deduction would have Penn’s side in the relegation places. The decision not to sub off Morgan Smith late on for fresh legs was a surprise, as Harriers had the better of the play and took the game to the home side. Clear cut chances are still few and far between, and this is a result that is not just a point dropped but potentially three missed out on.
The uplift in confidence after the equaliser is reason for optimism, but crosses that nearly connect with Harriers heads are just as useless as those which are never put in. It is still early in the season, but with a few more results like this Harriers could be sleepwalking into a relegation scrap.
Next Saturday a tough match against Rochdale AFC awaits, and one that increasingly looks like a must win for confidence reasons.
FT: 2 – 1
Goals for Southend Utd: Cardwell 52, Powell 93
Goal for Harriers: Morgan-Smith 80
The Harriers Online MotM is: Joe Leesley
Talk about the game here
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|Mr James Westgate