Kidderminster 0-2 Town
Two first half goals from Stuart Fleetwood gave the Hatters their first victory of the season at Kidderminster.
The striker scored two fine goals in the space of seven minutes to extend the Hatters fine record at Aggborough – this was their fifth win in the last six visits to this part of Worcestershire.
It was no more than the Town deserved with Fleetwood opening the scoring on 23 minutes finishing coolly following an intricate move involving JJ O’Donnell and Scott Rendell.
His second was even better – with nothing on he turned to hit a stunning low, curling shot from the edge of the area beyond the home goalkeeper Danny Lewis.
Harriers, who had rarely threatened in the first half, came out all guns blazing in the second half but failed to call Mark Tyler into a meaningful save.
O’Donnell, Jon Shaw, Alex Lawless and Fleetwood all came close to adding to the tally including an effort from the latter that skimmed the top of the crossbar.
But it mattered not – the Town were always comfortably in control despite Harriers’ efforts and held on to secure a deserved victory – and banish the disappointment of the first half on Saturday.
From that 2-2 draw with Gateshead on Saturday Paul Buckle made two changes. It was the two players who were introduced at half-time against the Heed – Lawless and Shaw – who came in to the starting XI. Andre Gray dropped to the bench whilst there was no Jake Howells, who was away with the Wales Under-21 squad.
Kidderminster, who made four changes to the side that lost to Lincoln, started the brighter. Jack Byrne ran from the centre of midfield to drag a shot wide of the target having squeezed past a posse of Town defenders on five minutes, before Anthony Malbon worried the Hatters back-line to force a corner moments later.
But slowly and surely the Town worked their way back into things and Buckle’s boys came mightily close to taking the lead on nine minutes. Ronnie Henry, playing at right-back, swung in a deep cross to the back post that Shaw touched across the face of goal and Rendell, six yards out, saw his header hit the top of the crossbar.
The Hatters continued to dominate and it was no surprise when they took the lead on 23 minutes with a move of real class. Rendell took a ball out of the sky superbly to pass to O’Donnell on the volley. That pass got the young midfielder in a position to eye a defence-splitting pass to Fleetwood who latched onto the throughball down the left, strode into the area unchallenged a coolly slotted the ball underneath Danny Lewis in the home goal.
Buoyed by that goal the Town sensed blood and, after a couple of flowing moves broke down on the edge of the box it, was 2-0 on the half-hour.
Confidence is the name of the game when it comes to Fleetwood and the striker demonstrated his eye for goal with a clinical, expertly-taken second goal. A move down the left saw Shaw feed the former Hereford man and – with seemingly nothing on – he turned and curled a low, beautiful strike beyond the reach of Lewis.
Shell-shocked, Harriers almost allowed the Town to make it 3-0 on 33 minutes when a super flat set-piece from Greg Taylor was met by a powerful header by Janos Kovacs. It seemed destined for the bottom corner but a fine, flying save from Lewis, to claw the ball out, prevented the Hatters from stretching their lead even further.
A third certainly wouldn’t have flattered the Hatters but on 37 minutes Harriers almost reduced arrears when Marvin Johnson – no, not that one – tested Mark Tyler with a close-range header from Keith Briggs’ right-wing cross.
But still the Town came back, Rendell, linking the play well by dropping deep, twice almost got Fleetwood away looking for his treble but at the break the Hatters settled for a two-goal cushion.
Harriers flew out of the traps at the start of the second period – akin to the Town against Gateshead on Saturday – but failed to turn their dominance and corner count into a goal.
The Hatters had a let off on 56 minutes when big centre back Ryan Austin fluffed a side-foot finish wide when left unmarked at the back stick.
Harriers were still searching for a way through the Town defence but O’Donnell almost made it 3-0 to the Hatters on 66 minutes. With everyone expecting the youngster to swing in a cross for Shaw, the midfielder blasted a well-hit shot goalwards that was heading home before Lewis flung himself at the effort to parry the ball to safety.
Errors were creeping into the hosts’ game as they pushed for a goal and a poor pass from defence was intercepted by Fleetwood a moment later which almost led to a chance for a third but the striker’s unselfish pass looking for Shaw was cleared.
Harriers really should have made it 2-1 when Malbon stuck wide of the target, sweeping a shot the other side of Tyler’s right-hand post when he’d raced through onside.
Back came the Town with Fleetwood unlucky not to see a deft lob fall underneath the crossbar for what would have been his hat-trick before he was substituted for Andre Gray with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Still Harriers pushed though, that man Malbon trying his luck with a downward-header moments later.
There was plenty of space for the Town to exploit in behind the home defence with Shaw unlucky to hit a left-foot shot on the turn high and wide, before Rendell blazed a shot over the crossbar following Lawless’ cut-back moments later.
Lawless then chipped an effort over the bar with five minutes left and proved to be the last action of a final few minutes as Harriers tried in vain to find a last-gasp desperate consolation but came up with nothing.
2-0, a clean sheet and the Town are up and running. Fourth in table. Bring on Hyde. See you then.