County Have Wings Clipped By Harriers, After Getting Off To A Flyer
County’s name will be in the hat for Monday lunchtime’s FA Trophy draw – although, in order for the Hatters actually to reach Round Three of the competition for the first time, they must overcome Kidderminster Harriers in a replay at Edgeley Park the following evening.
They came close to doing so without any requirement for one – and to achieving a first-ever win at Aggborough in the process. But their two-goal lead, courtesy of Jason Oswell and Darren Stephenson, was pegged back by the Harriers – who, for their part, also had a penalty saved by Ian Ormson, and finished the tie with 10 men after Fraser Horsfall was sent off towards the end.
County took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and showing three changes from the side that had drawn with another full-time National League North side, Salford City, a week previously. Ormson, Michael Clarke and – making his first start since returning on loan from Morecambe – Rhys Turner replaced Ben Hinchliffe, Chris Smalley and Matty Warburton, who were all unavailable.
Each end of the pitch was covered in a lively opening phase that saw Dan Bradley – looking to extend a scoring record against County that had involved him netting for previous clubs, Alfreton and Fylde, during 2016/17 – head high and Stephenson, from the edge of the home box, fire over.
But Ormson was the busier goalkeeper – diving to catch Elton Ngwatala’s header, before tipping over a thunderbolt by Bradley, and then parrying Sam Austin’s shot at the far post from the resulting corner on the left.
As half-time approached, the Hatters, by contrast, had yet to trouble Ormson’s opposite number, Brandon Hall. So, it was rather against the run of play when, two minutes before the interval, they took the lead with their first attempt on target following a well-worked, flowing counter-attack.
Gary Stopforth started the move from the County area – finding Adam Thomas, who, in turn, picked out Stephenson on the halfway-line and to his left. Stephenson raced towards the home end, before delivering a pinpoint-perfect cross that Oswell got in front of his marker, Horsfall, to meet with his head and glance into the far top corner for his 23rd goal in all competitions.
HALF-TIME: Kidderminster 0, County 1 (Oswell, 43).
The second half began trickily for the Hatters, as they first lost Dan Cowan with a dead leg and then conceded a penalty, after Cowan’s replacement, Harry Winter, fouled James McQuilkin.
Another substitute, Manny Sonupé, took the spot-kick four minutes before the hour-mark – only to be brilliantly denied by Ormson, who guessed correctly in diving to his left to keep it out.
And just under a quarter of an hour later, County doubled the advantage. A quickly-taken, low corner by Scott Duxbury from the right towards the near post was collected by Stephenson, who turned and drilled home through a packed six-yard box.
But the Harriers – by now playing with a four-strong attack – were in no mood to give up their interest in the Trophy. Andre Brown struck County’s left post, with Ormson beaten, from 30 yards out, and three minutes later the arrears were halved when Horsfall stooped to head in McQuilkin’s free-kick from the right.
Another three minutes passed before Sonupé atoned for his penalty miss with what proved to be the equaliser. Picking up Liam Truslove’s through-ball while sandwiched between two defenders, he neatly swivelled before rolling the ball past Ormson from close range.
Further, late drama was to follow when Horsfall, already on a yellow card, saw red for bringing down Bohan Dixon – and Ormson kept County in the contest by parrying Truslove’s shot from distance, before catching James O’Connor’s follow-up header, during added time.
FULL-TIME: Kidderminster 2 (Horsfall, 78; Sonupé, 81), County (Oswell, 43; Stephenson, 70).
Team: Ormson, Cowan (Winter, 48), Duxbury, Ball, Clarke, O’Halloran (Capt.), Thomas, Stopforth, Oswell (Dixon, 84), Turner (McKenna, 59), Stephenson.
Unused Subs: Downing, Smith.
Attendance: 1,348 (190 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.