Jack Byrne’s second-half header helped Harriers to a fantastic away victory at Grimsby Town as they rounded off a difficult week in style.
also got onto the scoresheet as Gary Whild’s side won on the road for the first time in almost a month and kept their first clean sheet in 11 league games.
A gutsy, resolute performance which showed fantastic spirit and determination sent the 70-strong travelling Harriers fans home happy, and pushed Whild’s side up to ninth in the Vanarama Conference, two points off the top five.
In their absence, Whild was able to call on Jared Hodgkiss, returning from suspension, with young striker Reece Hales making his first Harriers start.
Meanwhile Sam Long, who joined on loan from Oxford United this week, took a place on the substitutes bench.
Grimsby made only one alteration after drawing against Altrincham last weekend, as Scott Brown replaced Craig Disley.
Johnson stunned Blundell Park into silence after giving Harriers the lead after just 66 seconds.
From an early, rather unassuming Grimsby corner, the winger sparked into life as he stormed down the centre of the pitch to lead a Harriers counter-attack from Matt Robinson’s ball out.
After meandering over to the left and setting up on the edge of the box, Johnson calmly slotted a low left-footed effort into the bottom corner to shock the Mariners faithful, a suddenly subdued atmosphere breached only by the smattering cheers of the Harriers supporters.
Byrne doubled Harriers’ advantage just four minutes after the interval, in a move crafted by Reid.
The striker hit a sharp strike at goal from just inside the box and immediately ran to take the corner following its deflection behind.
A well-taken set-piece was planted accurately on Byrne’s head at the near post and the midfielder, who had shaken off black-and-white shirts to run into the box and jump freely, guided the ball into the back of the net.
Harriers could certainly have taken a bigger lead into half-time and their best opportunity to do so came through Reid who, from Robinson’s pass, saw an angled left-sided shot graze the far post as it rolled narrowly wide.
An attempted one-two between Reid and Hales was intercepted as the interval approached, after Johnson had blasted a wild effort wide with Reid well-placed in space to his left.
Earlier in the first half, 19-year-old Hales had shown flashes of his pace and technique as he turned to avoid two black-and-white shirts in the box and curl a strike towards the top-right corner, which sadly breezed over the crossbar.
Jamie Grimes was on hand to quell Grimsby’s threat on various occasions, as he looks to seal a defensive partnership with Josh Gowling
following Dunkley’s exit.
Grimes showed quick feet to nick an interception from John-Lewis in the box and guide the ball back to Danny Lewis
after nine minutes, before thudding a strong header clear from Aswad Thomas’ left-sided cross on the half-hour mark.
Lewis was also in phenomenal form for Harriers as he made several magnificent stops to defend his clean sheet valiantly.
During the first half, he punched clear a curving Nathan Arnold free-kick, dived to his right to stop a close-range Scott Brown effort, and powerfully palmed a fierce Harry Pell strike away from goal.
And, as the Mariners stepped up the pace a little during the second half, so did Harriers’ keeper.
Two minutes before the hour mark, Lewis made another incredible stop from John-Lewis’ header, which quickly became a double save as the hosts scrambled another effort on target in the melee which ensued, before demonstrating lightning-quick reactions to deny Carl Magnay at his near post three minutes from time.
The likes of Hodgkiss chipped in too, heading Disley’s header off the line with 12 minutes left to play, but it wasn’t just Grimsby enjoying chances at goal as Harriers continued to show endeavour going forwards as well as at the back.
A confident Johnson fired more shots at James McKeown’s goal, forcing the Town ‘keeper into a save after rounding off a piece of attacking play instigated by Reid and Robinson, before Scott Neilson had to head the winger’s effort off the line.
It was close to a complete performance by Harriers, a thoroughly spirited and assertive display in which they were well worth all three points.