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2021/22 season recapped

A look back at a memorable Aggborough season…



Goal celebrations for Harriers . Pic (C) PA Images

WITH 2021/22 now disappearing in the rear-view mirror, we take one last look back at a memorable campaign with Shane Wilkinson’s review…

AUGUST

It was a fine start to the season for Harriers, who remained unbeaten through August. A tough opening day assignment against now-promoted York City in the first game with fans in attendance at the new ground saw Harriers come away with a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Ashley Hemmings and Sam Austin.

Aggborough welcomed its first slice of 21/22 action the following week, as Blyth Spartans came to town and were promptly dispatched 3-0. In front of a crowd of 1,462, Austin and Hemmings got their second goals in as many games after Ethan Freemantle had opened his account for the campaign.

The Bank Holiday double header saw Harriers travel to Southport in a tale of two penalties. Hemmings converted for Harriers, but the prolific Marcus Carver pegged back Russ Penn’s charges. The month ended with a convincing defeat of Chester at Aggborough which included Mark Carrington’s first goal for the club and the winner of the Goal of the Season poll; a wonder strike from 30 yards out which left the goalkeeper with absolutely no chance. Omari Sterling got his first goal of the season to open the scoring before Austin rounded it off with his third goal in four games.

September

A trip to now-relegated Guiseley followed, where Harriers were held to a goalless draw and finished the game with ten men after Carrington received a red card. We also had a first look at the eventual champions Gateshead in a pulsating game at Aggborough which The Heed won 2-3. Walsall loanee Joe Foulkes notched his first senior goal before Hemmings continued his fine goalscoring start to the season but it was ultimately in vain.

Our Emirates FA Cup journey would then begin as Harriers were paired with local NPL Midlands side Sporting Khalsa for a maiden visit between the two sides. The Step 4 side kept Harriers at bay for well over an hour before Sam Arnold let an Austin effort squirm past him, before a double from Nyal Bell put the result beyond all doubt and secured safe passage into the Third Qualifying Round. The month ended in defeat at Mill Farm, home of AFC Fylde, where another Foulkes goal wasn’t enough to prevent a late 2-1 defeat.

October

October opened with more FA Cup action, with a first meeting since 2007 with Ware. In torrential weather at Wodson Park, Harriers were handed the perfect start with an Amari Morgan-Smith goal in the opening minute before Leigh Rose equalised with moments to spare to force a replay at Aggborough three days later. Morgan-Smith reprised his role as opening goalscorer that night in the replay, with Freemantle and a maiden professional goal for Alex Penny, in for the injured Foulkes, secured safe passage through to the Fourth Qualifying Round.

Brackley Town were the next side to visit Aggborough, where two first half goals were enough to secure all three points for Kevin Wilkin’s men. Despite three consecutive league defeats, Harriers were no strangers to winning games and would then embark on a twelve game unbeaten run in all competitions.

The first game of that run was the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round game against another Step 4 opponent, Bedfont Sports. Morgan-Smith continued his impressive goalscoring form in the cup, scoring just shy of the hour mark to send Harriers through to the FA Cup First Round for the first time since the 2017-18 season. A total of seven games were played during the month of October, and the fifth of those also yielded five goals as Bradford Park Avenue were dispatched at Aggborough. Goals from Freemantle and Hemmings set Harriers on their way before an Omari Sterling double and a late Nathan Cameron effort secured a 5-1 win.

Three days later, Harriers travelled to Chorley and were only denied a victory with ten men by a late Connor Hall goal. The month ended with the visit of Spennymoor Town and a convincing 4-0 win in which there were four different goalscorers; messrs Penny, Sterling, Austin and Freemantle.

November

Just like October, November began with an FA Cup game as National League high-flyers Grimsby Town came to visit. Geraldo Bajrami missed the game through suspension, allowing club legend Keith Lowe to deputise and turn in a man of the match display as Harriers pulled off an upset. Hemmings’ 72nd minute penalty after Luke Waterfall had tripped Freemantle was enough to send Harriers through to the Second Round.

A trio of league games followed in which ten goals were scored. First, strugglers AFC Telford were comfortably beaten 3-0 thanks to goals from Penny, Hemmings and Cameron before a trip to Alfreton Town beckoned. A scintillating first half display saw Harriers go in to the break 3-1 up courtesy of an Austin double and a goal of the season contender from Omari Sterling, before Morgan-Smith put the result beyond all doubt early in the second half. Harriers then travelled to Gloucester City in midweek and trailed at the break before Hemmings and Penny turned the game on its head. Not to be left out, Austin then dribbled the length of the pitch and rounded the goalkeeper to secure all three points and his spot in the Goal of the Season competition.

November ended with the beginning of our FA Trophy campaign and a short visit to Edgar Street where the game headed to penalties after a 1-1 draw; Jaiden White converting the winning spot kick to send Harriers through 5-3.

December

Aggborough played host to only one game this month, played out in front of a mammoth 4,296 crowd. It was, of course, the FA Cup Second Round clash against another National League high-flyer, this time FC Halifax Town. With the game moved to Sunday for additional coverage, Harriers flew out of the traps and never gave the Shaymen a chance to get back into the game. Morgan-Smith’s smart second minute effort was followed 15 minutes later by an excellent Hemmings effort, securing our place in the Third Round for the first time since 2013/14.

Three away games followed, the first two of which were league games. Hemmings was again on the scoresheet with a fortuitous winner at Boston United before Cameron rescued a point at Curzon Ashton just days later. Our FA Trophy journey came to an abrupt end in our second meeting in a week with Boston, who triumphed 4-1, notable perhaps for a first senior goal for White. A lack of festive action was down to COVID cases in opposition camps, giving Russ Penn’s side a two week break ahead of a massive tie…

January

The FA Cup Third Round draw had handed Harriers a home draw against Championship side Reading, but TV coverage was not forthcoming despite the potential for an upset. Suitably aggrieved, over five thousand fans packed into Aggborough. Facing a side packed with international experience, including a former Premier League winner in Danny Drinkwater, Harriers went into the break unfortunate to be a goal behind as George Puskas struck in the dying stages of the first half. An error from Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral allowed Austin to send Aggborough into raptures before Morgan-Smith bundled home in front of the North Stand to spark delirious scenes in the stands and later, in the dressing room. A massive win.

There was no time for cup hangovers though, as Farsley Celtic were the next visitors. Despite falling behind to a fifth minute goal, Harriers weren’t to be denied as goals from Carrington and Freemantle completed the turnaround. A long trip to Darlington followed and proved fruitful thanks to Marcus Dinanga’s last gasp headed winner. Harriers tasted defeat for the only time this month on a foggy Tuesday night at Edgar Street against Hereford before bouncing back with a comprehensive 3-0 win at home to York City. Another tough Tuesday night assignment followed with a trip to Kettering Town, when Morgan-Smith’s first half goal was the difference between the two sides. January ended with a goalless draw at home to Gloucester City.

February

For the first time since September, Harriers opened the month with league action. A 3-0 victory over Leamington, thanks to goals from Sterling, Cameron and White was the perfect preparation for what was to come.

What was to come was an appearance on Match of the Day for the visit of Premier League giants West Ham United. Taking the Saturday lunchtime television slot, Harriers soared into the hearts and minds of the nation when a Sterling free kick was spilled by Alphonse Arreola, allowing Alex Penny to stroke home to make the impossible, possible. Ultimately, it would end in heartbreak as goals from Declan Rice in the last minute of normal time and Jarrod Bowen in the last minute of extra time would consign the historic Harriers dream to the dustbin.

If Harriers thought they would be greeted by a comfortable return to league action, they would be sorely mistaken as a trip to AFC Telford soon beckoned. Backed by 800 travelling supporters, a first half Cameron goal would prove to be the difference as Harriers picked up a 1-0 win. The local rivalries would continue, as Hereford came to Aggborough and fell victim to a confident Harriers performance; a Morgan-Smith double following up Austin’s opener to secure a 3-0 victory in front of 3,912 supporters.

A week later saw a third game against Boston United and the league double secured thanks to Hemmings, Austin and Morgan-Smith. February ended on a sour note, as Hemmings’ penalty wasn’t enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat.

March

A difficult month on paper proved to be just as difficult on the pitch as Harriers opened up with a comprehensive 4-0 defeat away to Gateshead. A narrow home defeat to AFC Fylde followed before a goalless draw away to Spennymoor Town got Harriers on the board for the month. A narrow defeat at Brackley Town followed before the month ended with four points from two games; a home draw to Chorley preceding a comprehensive 5-0 win in front of over 2,000 supporters against Curzon Ashton.

April

The end of the season was a hectic one, with seven games played in April. A goalless draw at Bradford Park Avenue was followed up by a narrow home defeat to Alfreton Town before Southport were sent packing comprehensively 6-0 in a game notable for Cliff Moyo’s first goal since his return from an injury sustained in pre-season. Sadly in a cruel twist of fate he would then pick up another serious injury a week later in the 2-2 draw against Chester.

A second consecutive draw followed in the form of a rare goalless draw at home to Kettering Town before the month was rounded off with a 1-1 draw away to Blyth Spartans and a professional 3-0 victory over Guiseley at Aggborough where Geraldo Bajrami grabbed a long awaited maiden goal for the club.

May

With a play-off berth and fourth position guaranteed, Harriers headed to Leamington with the freedom to hand first team minutes to Academy graduates Kai Lissimore and Luke Bastable but they were unable to prevent a 2-0 reverse.

The regular season ended in front of a healthy 2,436 crowd at Aggborough as a deflected Keziah Martin goal was the difference against Darlington.

The Play Off Eliminator Stage beckoned, with Boston United the visitors after sneaking into the play offs on the final day of the season. 3,921 fans turned out on a Thursday night at Aggborough and despite a solo Hemmings effort, Harriers were eventually beaten by Paul Cox’s side to give an incredible, emotional, thrilling season a painful ending.

Get more end-of-season reflections with our extended interviews with Russ Penn and Amari Morgan-Smith.


This article is about: Club News, Match


 

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