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Match Report


Posted Sat 04 Apr 15 at 16:45 PM


Callum Gittings’ second-half goal earned a youthful Harriers side a point at the New Bucks Head Stadium, as Telford United’s relegation to the Conference North was confirmed.

Tony Gray had taken the lead for the hosts as they looked to dodge the bullet, but a defensive error let in man-of-the-match Gittings to bag his second league goal of the season and seal United’s fate.

Harriers remain in 11th place as Telford lie rock-bottom of the Vanarama Conference, 14 points behind Alfreton Town.

Manager Gary Whild made two changes to the Harriers side which beat Braintree Town 3-1 last weekend, both forced through injury and illness.

Jack Byrne was substituted with a recurrence of his hamstring problem during last week’s victory over the Iron and subsequently missed out today, while both Lee Hughes and Keyon Reffell were unwell and unable to feature.

However, in their place, Harriers were able to introduce some exciting Academy prospects.

For Byrne, Whild handed tall midfielder Luke Maxwell his second first-team start and his fourth appearance overall, while Kennedy Digie later made his third first-team appearance from the bench.

And making his debut in Hughes’ place was Jordan Harrison, a pacey striker who played a starring role in the Academy’s historic FA Youth Cup run earlier on this season.

Telford, meanwhile,  made two changes from their defeat to Dover Athletic last Saturday, as Sam Smith and John Disney replaced Glenn Matthews and Mike Grogan.

All the focus was on the Academy lads but it was an experienced head who earned the plaudits for Harriers; Gittings’ equaliser with 12 minutes left to play was nothing more than he deserved after a stand-out display in midfield.

As Telford dithered at the back, Sean Clancy’s mis-kick let in the long-serving midfielder, who confidently strode forward and slotted past ‘keeper James Montgomery to send the travelling Harriers fans behind him into celebration.

The hosts had taken the lead on the hour mark as they looked to avoid slipping out of non-league's top tier this weekend.

Godfrey Poku initiated the move and Gray spotted Adam Farrell on the right, before rushing into position as his team-mate delivered a cross for him to nod home.

The first-half saw Harriers’ younger contingent shine and it looked like it would be a dream debut for Harrison, who had the ball in the back of the net six minutes before half time.

The 17-year-old struck from close range from Danny Wright’s knock-down header after Gittings’ free-kick, only to be denied by the offside flag.

By this point, Harriers had three Academy players on the pitch, as Digie had taken the place of the injured Aman Verma who limped off the field on the half-hour mark.

Those three plus the two Birmingham City loanees James Fry and Nat Kelly brought the average age of Harriers’ outfield players right down - but all appeared composed and comfortable throughout.

In the opening 45 minutes, both sides had chances on goal, the most dangerous falling to Wright one minute before the interval.

From a well-hit Kelly long pass, in a similar fashion to Gittings’ assist to his first goal last week, Wright latched onto the ball and ventured into the area, fending off Ian Sharps to drill an angled effort inches wide of the far post.

The striker then almost capitalised on a poor Danny Ventre backpass but was thwarted by Montgomery, who recovered well.

Throughout the first half Gittings drove Harriers’ attacks, whipping in a couple of crosses at the byline which unfortunately failed to find a red shirt.

He also set up Wright inside the first six minutes, the striker’s header tipped over the bar by Montgomery but then ruled offside, before trying his luck with some long-range shots himself, calling Montgomery into action.

Verma also stung the Telford keeper's palms before his departure, collecting the ball as the Bucks tried to clear Maxwell’s dribble into the box and pulling the trigger with a thumping strike, while his replacement nodded wide from a free-kick 10 minutes before the interval.

Telford fought and Gray, Farrell and Bradley Reid had shots on target in the first half, before they drew first blood in the second half.

United had started brightly, as Farrell flashed a swift delivery untouched across the box immediately from kick off which Fry cleaned up well, before he tried his luck himself, set up by Reid.

Akwasi Asante was introduced for Harrison on the 50th minute and looked determined to get onto the scoresheet, beating his man to race onto a Jamie Grimes clearance and testing Montgomery with a low shot, just 60 seconds before Telford took the lead.

Five minutes later Asante saw another effort on target with a quick-fire turn and shot, before he was played in by Wright soon afterwards but looked flustered as he approached the box and blasted his effort high and wide.

Maxwell stroked a couple of low shots on goal, including one five minutes towards the end which was almost spilled by Montgomery, while Ventre had a last-ditch effort with a powerful free-kick which Lewis pushed clear.

Amidst a difficult week offvthe pitch for Harriers, it was a spirited display by Whild and his mix of experienced heads and teenagers, and it’s an away point to build on as they entertain title-chasing Bristol Rovers at Aggborough on Monday.

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