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The Best Of The Rest
Seventh time lucky? By: Max 21/04/2024
Kidderminster Harriers
4 1
League 20/04/2024
2023-2024 Attendance: 1896 (281)

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I wrote after the Bromley game a request that we please march rather than stumble into the play-offs this time. On the back of a brilliant 2-0 win up north last week and a comprehensive brushing aside of Kidderminster in this one, it’s fair to say we are marching indeed. 8 unbeaten. This is not how we normally do it.

There was a real fear (in my mind, anyway) that we could have done a Barnet in this situation and ended up 3rd. What relief to have very much done the opposite. Kidderminster had nothing to play for but it didn’t seem beyond the realms for them to perhaps turn up for the loudly dressed Phil Brown’s likely final game in charge. Before we go on, credit to the 281 Harriers fans in attendance. Excellent, positive support being shown throughout at the end of a hard season. You’d imagine they’ll be back at this level again in the fairly near future.

Beforehand, I had the unusual experience of seeing the place wake up. Helping out with the Bring Barnet Back stall in the bar, this meant arriving earlier than probably any other visit to The Hive, ever. The early kick off made it feel even more weird. A quick thank you, by the way, to everyone for their continued support and investment in the Bring Barnet Back merchandise. The new car stickers sold really well and it was nice to chat with others about the campaign. Hearing stories from one chap who’d been attending since 1957. Wonderful.

Pre-game, there was the rather unfortunate chairman’s statement in relation to the FA Cup. Strangely released just moments before kick-off. His is probably not an angle we’ll see many other small clubs take. I’m not going to drill into it too much, but can only say I couldn’t disagree more and that if nothing else, it’s negative PR we really don’t need. Read the room, if that’s what you think, and stay quiet. If the timing was to help bury it, why say anything at all?

Other than the Chelsea replay in 1994, we’ve not had many others of huge significance that spring straight to mind. Although 1600 Barnet went to Brentford away in 2019, saying that.

Anyway, I would dispute that my (and I know several others with the same view) favourite ever Barnet goal, Adam Birchall at Swindon in the FA Cup 3rd Round in 2008 would have only had half the magnitude if all it did was take the game to extra time. A late goal to force a replay makes a draw feel like a win. In how many of those situations would the minnows then tire and lose in extra time?

We also then had an incredibly memorable Underhill night as a result of that Swindon goal via a replay and booked our place in Round 4. Short memories, perhaps?

Supporting this decision made by the elite 20 teams really goes against the values you’d expect from a club like ours. Another moment of gritting teeth, shaking of the head and just trying to block it out. It can be hard work. A conversation in the bar at half time about this led to a compatriot of mine claiming the way our chairman runs Barnet FC is akin to the storyline of the film Misery. I haven’t seen it, but the analogy was really some of the most fascinating half time entertainment!

Oh yes, the football itself. Well, it was fine. Not terribly exciting but despite a fairly pedestrian first half, we went in 2-0 up at the break. Two of our main men, Collinge and Kabamba adding to their respective impressive tallies. Good as game over by the break. It almost had a bit of a pre-season feel to it at times, such was the languid nature of things. Most welcome, in this scenario. No stress needed.

I must admit, I was still too engrossed in the bar by the sketchy explanation of how our chairman treats the club like an obsessed lover who creates ‘misery’ to keep us grounded, that I hadn’t come back to my seat in time for the third goal. Luke Freeman got his first for the club, capping off a decent performance. It would be fair to say he perhaps hasn’t quite hit the heights we’d have hoped since his February arrival, but maybe he’s just coming good now at the right time. Let’s hope so.

At 3-0 up, sensible changes were made with Okimo, Kabamba and Brunt all departing the action. Kidderminster did pull one back and showed some fight. A second goal for them would have made things nervy; memories of being 3-0 up and drawing 3-3 with them in 2014 came to mind.

The points and second place were both wrapped up in the final minute. A fine run from Idris Kanu ended in a heavily deflected shot looping past the Harriers’ keeper. The icing on the cake.

The end of the game saw the players briefly leave the pitch to return for a lap (sort of, without two ends) of honour. No doubt a deserved one. 2nd place, 86 points and one of our best home records in our history. A fantastic job well done by all.

So, next week. Pffffffff. It’s going to be a long wait for Saturday. Maybe Solihull would be the preferred opponent, but there’s not much between it. We owe Gateshead one.

What will be important is that the place is full and loud. The first twenty minutes of the Boreham Wood eliminator game last year had an electric atmosphere, but let’s hope this can step up even further.

There are plenty of us who have seen a near Wembley moment. Too many heartbreaks to mention - but a home game and then being straight there? This has to be the best chance we’ve ever had. Will it be different this time?

Our seventh play off campaign and the first one where we have ever gone in as the highest finisher and indeed, favourites. I am trying to temper my expectations and excitement by the slightly miserable reminder of our record on the big occasion in the past few years. Let’s hope we can break that hoodoo of near misses and by doing so next week, carry that momentum into the following Sunday. One very big step at a time, though.

Nice little footnote on Boreham Wood going down and Southend not making the play-offs. Don’t care too much about either really, but I imagine that’s the last this level of football will ever see of the Wood. A loss for no one. As for Southend, they’d have been a real problem in the play-offs for all concerned with that momentum. Let’s hope we can get out of here before they look to kick on next year.

Is it next Saturday at 5:30, yet?

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