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Match Report


Posted Sat 21 Mar 15 at 16:45 PM


Lee Hughes ended Harriers’ goal drought but it wasn’t enough to stop Harriers leaving Plainmoor empty-handed as Gary Whild’s men were beaten by Torquay United.

A goal in each half by Ryan Bowman, his second occurring three minutes after Hughes’ equaliser, sealed the points for the Gulls.

It means Harriers slip down to 13th as they remain in the midst of a winless run.

Whild made two alterations to the Harriers side which lined up against Dover Athletic last weekend, one of them forced as Jack Byrne missed out following his half-time withdrawal due to injury at Aggborough.

Callum Gittings was called upon to make his first start in three league games in his place, while Hughes returned to the starting XI at the expense of Jamie Spencer, who had started his first game against the Whites.

Harriers Academy's Luke Maxwell also featured on the bench and was to later making an appearance to mark his second showing for the first team.

Torquay, who found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-1 scoreline midweek, made three changes to the team which started that ill-fated fixture against Braintree Town, as James McQuilkin, Courtney Cameron and Louis Briscoe replace Krystian Pearce, Courtney Richards and Bowman.

But the early substitution of the injured John Campbell saw the introduction of Bowman and the Gulls’ leading goalscorer found the net after just nine minutes on the pitch.

A half-clearance by Josh Gowling, who had picked up a booking inside the opening two minutes, was pounced upon by the hosts and, after a swift exchange between Luke Young and Briscoe, the ball was presented to Bowman.

With ample space available as he approached the edge of the area, the striker was able to tuck a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner, his first league goal since December.

It was a position Harriers had found themselves in frequently in recent times but on this occasion, they bit back.

Before today, the last player in a red shirt to find the back of the net was Hughes against Woking over a month ago, and it was the 38-year-old who stepped up to the plate again as he equalised around the hour mark.

Jake Green won a free-kick on the right-hand side and former United defender Kevin Nicholson, making his return to the Plainmoor pitch, sent in a pinpoint set-piece.

His delivery was nodded on by Jamie Grimes straight into the path of Hughes, who was positioned perfectly to guide the ball past Martin Rice from close-range.

From this point Harriers should have built on their equal footing, but instead they switched off just minutes later and allowed Bowman, set up by a Toby Ajala pass, to roll a low angled effort into the opposite corner and claim back the lead for the hosts.

A forgettable first half was swung very much in Torquay’s favour through their opener following an edgy opening period between two out-of-form sides, and Harriers were initially restricted only to the odd header.

Five minutes before United’s goal, Ahmed Obeng had done well to get good connection on Jared Hodgkiss’ cross but Rice was on hand to catch his header, while Danny Wright and Aman Verma both saw headed efforts of their own fall wide.

That was as good as it got for Whild’s men inside the opening 45 minutes, however, while Torquay had two other stand-out opportunities to increase their lead.

On the 10th minute, Ajala raced in between the Harriers defence to latch onto a high pass but scooped his attempted lob over the bar as Danny Lewis raced off his line to make a challenge.

And two minutes before Torquay’s first, a low Briscoe cross at the byline was flicked hastily clear by Verma before Cameron could get on the end of it in the middle of the box.

Frustrations were showing for Harriers, too, as Grimes earned a yellow card after squaring up to Bowman following a collision with Lewis four minutes before the interval.

Within 15 minutes of the second half, Spencer and Akwasi Asante had been introduced, as Bowman saw a close-range shot well-blocked by Gowling and Briscoe failed to hit the target after setting himself up with some good skill on the edge of the area.

And despite falling behind almost immediately after equalising, Harriers continued to press and threatened through Hughes, who was blocked from a similar position to his goal, and Gowling, whose hooked effort from a corner was scrambled hastily clear by yellow shirts.

Torquay should have put the game beyond doubt 12 minutes from time when they counter-attacked following a series of Harriers corners, but Briscoe clumsily bundled the ball wide from a swift low Bowman cross.

With five minutes left, Nicholson’s free-kick found Hughes but Spencer was thwarted as he tried to direct his knock-on goalwards, before Gittings’ set-piece was spilt by Rice but the Gulls flocked in hastily to clear the danger.

Hughes’ goal in a much-improved second half had certainly initially seemed to signal a change of fortune for Harriers, but it wasn’t to be and it was Torquay instead who put an end to their winless run.

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