BY Jordan Cronin
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
National League North
Saturday, January 4
KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS 0-1 BLYTH SPARTANS
Lewis Hawkins’ spectacular second-half strike earned Blyth Spartans a massive three points at Kidderminster Harriers in their quest for National League North safety.
Hawkins looped the ball over Harriers goalkeeper Will Mannion from 35 yards out after connecting with new signing Scott Wilson’s throw-in on the volley.
The 1-0 win – Blyth’s third league away win of the season – saw Lee Clark’s side reduce the relegation gap to three points ahead of games against Altrincham and Curzon Ashton.
Clark named one enforced change from the 3-3 draw with Gateshead – Wilson coming in for the injured Olly Scott. Mark Waddington started on the bench.
The game was end-to-end in the opening quarter of an hour with Michael Sweet first testing Mannion on two minutes before Callum Roberts oversaw a big opportunity.
The former Newcastle United man burst through the Harriers defence and into the penalty area, only for his near post shot to be saved by the legs of Mannion.
After Blyth survived a cross-come-shot from Milan Butterfield and an off target effort from Sam Austin, the home side created the best chance of the half on 13 minutes.
Ollie Shenton raced onto a ball over the top of the Spartans defence – holding off the challenge of Kris Thackray before powering wide from 10 yards.
Ethan Freemantle also found joy down the middle of the visitors’ defence, riding four tackles and bringing Zach Hemming into his biggest save of the game.
And while an audacious attempt from Sweet just fell the wrong side of the post, Harriers ended the first-half on top and almost took advantage of some sloppy Blyth possession.
Damen Mullen’s loose ball could have so nearly ended in a Kidderminster opener but Hawkins superbly tracked back to block Shenton’s shot.
And Blyth lost their shape from the resulting corner as Ashley Hemming’s delivery dropped to the unmarked Butterfield but fortunately Hemming was on guard to save.
Hemmings was the dangerman again on the brink of the break, this time picking out Freemantle, who flicked his header over whilst facing away from goal.
But it was Clark’s men who started the second interval on the front foot and had Hawkins to thank for an unbelievable opener at Aggborough on 56 minutes.
The hosts pushed for an equaliser, though rarely tested Hemming due to the excellent resilience and battling display from the Blyth defence.
Substitute Ashley Chambers proved handful after he combined with Hemmings, whose left-footed shot towards the bottom corner was beaten away by the Middlesbrough loanee.
There were a few heart-and-mouth moments to follow, none less than in the final kick of the game after Kidderminster won a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Hemmings fired a vicious strike towards goal. The power of shot meant Hemming could only parry and thankfully the follow up was held just as it seemed it was going to be bundled home.
Kidderminster: Mannion, Williams (Davidson, 52), Austin, Higginson, Moyo, Lowe, Prosser, Butterfield, Freemantle (Chambers, 69), Hemmings, Shenton (Peniket, 80). Subs not used: Palmer, Digie.
Blyth Spartans: Hemming, Evans, Wilson, Mullen (Waddington 76), Sanders, Thackray, Hunter, Hawkins, Sweet (Wrightson, 65 OFF McKeown 90), Roberts, Dale. Subs not used: Devitt, Hutchinson.
Goals: Hawkins (56)
Referee: Lucas Simeon
Attendance: 1532 (35 away)