By Ryan Burr
On Saturday afternoon Blyth will make the long distance trip to Worcestershire to face an unbeaten Kidderminster side who are already sitting high in the playoff places a month into the season.
Following Spartans good result last weekend against a decent Altrincham side, Alun Armstrong will be hoping he and his men can have another positive result this weekend and finally string together a run of form. Kiddy however will make tough opposition for the travelling Spartans given their recent run of excellent results against fellow top half of the table sides Boston and Stockport in recent weeks.
Formed in 1886, in place of an already highly successful rugby union and athletics club, Kidderminster Harriers were founding members of the Birmingham and District League in 1889. During these early years the Harriers formed a strong rivalry against Kidderminster Olympic – who also competed in the Birmingham and District league, with derbies between the two regularly drawing crowds over seven thousand plus.
Despite this early factionalism, both clubs amalgamated in 1890 forming Kidderminster FC. Operating as a professionally run team, Kiddy entered the both the Midlands League and the FA Cup – reaching the first round proper in their first attempt. Despite these positive early signs the club soon ran into financial difficulty and was forced to resign from the professional ranks in March 1891.
Reverting back to the Birmingham and District League; Kidderminster, despite some big name players passing through the club, struggled both on and off the pitch for much of the early 20th century. In 1938 however Kiddy- then competing in the West Midlands League, rediscovered their form; finishing the season undefeated. In 1939 Harriers continued this period of success by once again winning the league and In response made the decision once again to move back into the professional game as part of the Southern League for the start of the 1940/41 season.
After World War Two, Kidderminster played briefly again in the West Midlands League before again deciding to ply their trade in the professional Southern League for the start of the 1948 season. Again however Kiddy soon found themselves in financial troubles and by 1960 the club voluntarily elected to again step down back into the amateur ranks.
From 1964 to 1972 Harriers won the West Midlands League on four occasions, with much of this success owed to the performances of the legendary Wassall brothers. Consequently in 1972 Kidderminster returned for their forth stint in the professional ranks as part of Division One North.
In 1983 the club were promoted to the Conference were they stayed for the rest of the decade. During this time the club also, despite being an English team, competed in the Welsh Cup – reaching the final on two occasions in 1986 and 1989. In 1993 saw more cup joy for Kidderminster as they reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, defeating both Birmingham City and Preston North End on the way to doing so.
In 1994 Harriers continued their period of relative success winning the Conference. Sadly they were refused entry to the Football League after not meeting the relevant fire safety measures at their ground Aggborough.
By the turn of the century Kidderminster had found new financial backing and were able to once again mount a significant push to reach the Football League, a feat they attained at the end of the 2000 season. Led on and off by former Liverpool player Jan Molby, Kiddy managed 5 seasons in League Two – claiming the scalps of recognised big names Hull City and Swansea during this time, although by the start of the 2005/06 season the club once again found themselves back in the Conference.
For 10 seasons Kiddy remained in the Conference were they were rarely able to reach the upper echelons of the table- finishing only once in the playoff places during this time. Following some financial issues, which saw the club lose the majority of the best players, Kidderminster were relegated to the National League North in 2016.
More recently however, Kidderminster have been able to once again find some pretty decent form. Under the management of former Derby City player John Eustace- and perhaps most importantly supported by solid financial foundations, the Harriers have transformed once again into a strong team which has achieved a playoff finish in both seasons since their relegation. For many Kidderminster fans these two seasons of consolidation have made this their third back in the National League North an important one as the Harriers aim to return back to the Conference in the near to immediate future.
Former professional midfielder Neil MacFarlane has replaced the popular and successful John Eustace – who departed for a position at QPR, at the helm of the Harriers for the start of this season.
Although a young coach, MacFarlane has brought with him a wealth of experience from his stints as part of coaching set ups at MK Dons, Fleetwood and Coventry City in England- as well as time spent in Scotland and Cyprus, which he is sure to apply in this his first senior managerial role at Kidderminster.
The Key Man:
Prolific striker Ashley Chambers has already been in decent form this season scoring three times already including a goal last time out against Boston United.
The Leicester City graduate has plied his trade at a number of clubs among the lower divisions of the Football League – his most prominent and successful spell being his time at York City during their last spell in League Two. More recently however Chambers has found a home playing in the National League North, playing previously at Nuneaton Town where he netted 33 times in 61 appearances- including a goal against Spartans at the end of last season for the Boro.
The pacey forward has already shown a combination of nimble footwork and excellent finishing- both close up and from range, which will surely keep the Blyth defence busy this weekend.