‘West Ham were not massive in Kidderminster – we were embarrassing’

Rice dragged us through into the next round of the FA Cup but you’ve got to feel for the Harriers

Declan Rice (WHU) at the Arsenal v West Ham United EPL match, at the Emirates Stadium, London, UK on 11th December, 2021.

It’s a fair assessment to say that we slipped on a banana skin but didn’t fall and thus survived our visit to Kidderminster last month.

But it was certainly one where we used all our get out of jail free cards, needing both the chance and community chest ones. 

For those of us of a certain age, it was nothing new. Even the opposition was one from our past, but for me it was my first visit to the Aggborough stadium in a football capacity and one that was pretty enjoyable.

I guess the first thing to mention is that it was a local game for me – exactly 31 miles from my home and it is so rare to have such a short journey to see my beloved Hammers. 

I have been to the Aggborough stadium many times, using their hospitality areas to attend various work meetings, and so I knew the way, but I had never been to a game there and on our previous trip had been unable to secure a ticket, but I had one this time. 

What I didn’t expect was the lack of traffic or the fact that there were plenty of places to park or the fact that food was free at the ground. 

Well I say free, it was if you wished to try a plant-based burger from a well-known fast food restaurant.

The plus seemed to be that I was one of the few Hammers who wished to partake and even had one prior to kick off and at half time.

Kidderminster Harriers are renowned for their food, serving a mean shepherd’s pie but one thing that wasn’t available was alcohol to quench the thirst of the travelling fans but at least the local off licence opposite the ground was making a roaring trade.

So ensconced on the terracing just to the right of the goal, I settled down to watch the game.

What was immediately evident was the support from the Kidderminster fans. Although one section seemed to be slightly empty, no doubt due to safety certification, the terracing at their end was packed and noisy and also included some of those hand made cardboard cutout FA Cups covered in silver foil.

The crowd were there to support their team and it seemed as if this immediately spurred the players on.

This was a game where Kidderminster had everything to play for and West Ham had everything to lose.

Those early stages seemed to be all Harriers as they seemed to attack with ease and there was one glaring incident that occurred which triggered their game plan.

With just minutes gone they realised that Issa Diop was fragile at the back. It was clear that he was uncomfortable and Kidderminster exploited this fact.

It seemed as if after just a few minutes they realised he was the weakest link. Time and time again he was challenged.

When that first goal went in, it was well deserved and rather than sit back, Kidderminster knew they had West Ham on the back foot and rather than change their game plan, they instead went to put the game well and truly away. 

Half time couldn’t have come sooner and thankfully we hung on to go in at just 1-0 down and time for yours truly to have another plant-based burger and to watch a certain Declan Rice warm up for his impending arrival.

To say that Declan turned the game around was an understatement. He was a one-man wrecking ball and seemed one of the few players that had simply not given up the ghost. 

He led by example encouraging others to rise up and rather than roll over, push for that equaliser. 

Several players seemed to respond but one thing Kidderminster didn’t need was to be cheated out of a result and it was so disappointing to see a certain Ukrainian international attempt to do just that. 

Yarmolenko’s attempt to fool the referee by diving in the penalty area was one which just about summed up his performance that day, he was woeful all game and to attempt to cheat a result was embarrassing for us all to see. 

He even looked tired during the warm up. A shocking display.

With just minutes remaining, it was of course Declan who got that all important equaliser blasting the ball into the net and setting up extra time.

I expected Kidderminster to tire but they did nothing of the sort and continued to press whenever they could. 

But the superiority of the Premier League team was beginning to show and it seemed that Harriers hearts were broken when Bowen slotted in what we initially thought was the winner only for it to be ruled offside.

As the minutes ticked down it seemed that the game would end with the lottery that is penalties but then up popped Bowen, almost a local lad to Kidderminster, to break the home team’s hearts and send us to an undeserved place in the next round.

What a game and what a story for those Kidderminster Harriers players to tell family and friends.

Victory had been snatched from them not once but twice and if it was not for the introduction of a world class midfielder, who took the game by the scruff of the neck, the result could have been so different.

Walking back to the car, I felt quite guilty being a supporter of the winning team. 

On the short journey home the radio was full of praise for a plucky Kidderminster team. There had been some making excuses that the pitch was not up to much but to me, that ground looked like a carpet from the pitches of old, particularly those I had seen in the month of February in years gone by. 

West Ham were not massive that day in Worcestershire. West Ham were lucky and it was a sad case that due to Covid-19, Kidderminster Harriers did not get that return leg at the London Stadium and a payday they richly deserved. 

But I was pretty happy on that journey back, free food, an extra 30 minutes of football, and home sipping a cup of tea less than an hour after that final whistle had sounded.

Many talk about the Great Escape when we survived on the last day at Old Trafford but let’s not beat about the bushes, it was a lucky escape against Kidderminster.

It was one which needed a world class player to be injected into the game and lead by example to continue our journey in the FA Cup.

But I bet if we ever play Kidderminster again, there will be a shiver down many supporters’ backs, especially those of us who witnessed daylight robbery occur on our day out in Worcestershire. 

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