Kidderminster Harriers 2, Stockport County 0: Hatters’ play-off hopes damaged

Lewis Montrose on the ball for Stockport County against Kidderminster

The Hatters played Kidderminster at Aggborough for the first time since April 2013 when a convincing win for the Harriers had condemned County to relegation from the Conference Premier.

But, despite having last season enjoyed an inaugural victory at the ground over then-tenants Worcester City, the Hatters were unable to achieve a full exorcism of their demons by beating the landlords, second in Conference North.

And so it was that a 12-match unbeaten league run, stretching back to November, came to an end, as a goal in each half earned Kidderminster all three points – and a ‘double’ over County for good measure.

The Hatters took to the field in a 3-4-1-2 formation, and showing four changes from their starting line-up at Edgeley Park against FC United a week previously. 

Captain Mark Ross, together with Courtney Meppen-Walters and Scott Duxbury, were recalled, while Sefton Gonzales was handed his first start since transferring back to the club.

Sam Minihan was ruled out by a groin injury, and a second change was enforced as a consequence of loanee-midfielder Elliot Osborne’s return to Fleetwood Town. The two other players replaced – Josh Amis and Kaine Felix – were included on the County bench.

The first 45 minutes featured a series of attacks and counter-attacks that saw the Hatters go closest to scoring.

Home goalkeeper Alex Palmer did well to parry a shot on the turn by Meppen-Walters after 10 minutes.

And four minutes later, Danny Lloyd’s side-footed effort hit the right post after County’s leading scorer had been played through by Gonzales.

But in added time, a long clearance from the hosts’ half led to them taking the lead. Arthur Gnahoua seized on hesitation in the County defence – before outwitting Michael Clarke and Chris Smalley to pounce and fire home past Ben Hinchliffe. 

Sefton Gonzales challenges for the ball, for Stockport at Kidderminster
Sefton Gonzales challenges for the ball, for Stockport at Kidderminster (

Despite a bright start by the Hatters following the resumption, they were unable to get back on level terms – with Gonzales being denied by the legs of Palmer, and substitute Amis firing just wide of the right post after the ball had been squared to him by Lloyd.

And after 79 minutes, their task was made all the more difficult as Kidderminster doubled the lead. Gnahoua turned provider to cross from the left for Elton Ngwatala to head home off the far upright – in spite of Hinchliffe getting a hand to the effort.

There was still time for County to go close again – as a Gonzales flick found Jimmy Ball, whose low drive grazed the outside of the left post.

But the Hatters ultimately had to settle for travelling home empty-handed, having suffered defeat on their league travels for only the third time in the current campaign and on a first occasion since September 7.

The result leaves County in sixth spot and outside the play-off places but just five points behind Salford and Kidderminster in second and third.

Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Ross (Capt.), Hampson, Montrose, Clarke, Smalley (Felix, 80), Meppen-Walters (Amis, 47), Duxbury, Gonzales, Ball, Lloyd.
Unused subs: Brazel, Ormson, Marsden.
Booked: Montrose, Hampson.
Attendance: 2,151 (515 away fans).

Courtney Meppen-Walters challenges for the ball, for Stockport at Kidderminster
Courtney Meppen-Walters challenges for the ball, for Stockport at Kidderminster (