For Hayes & Yeading United's Blue Square Premier bow manager Garry Haylock gave debuts to five new signings with a sixth newbie on the bench.
With last season's top scorer Josh Scott departed to Dagenham & Redbridge, it was 18 year old Robert Gradwell who was given the task of breaking down the Harriers defence. Also debuting were keeper Simon Overland, left-back Adam Green and midfielders Marc Canham and Justin Cochrane.
While United were eventually to come away from Kidderminster pointless it could have been so different had two great second half chances been taken by the visitors. United started well and home keeper Dean Coleman was almost embarrassed after five minutes when Danny Allen-Page whipped in a near post cross that the home keeper spilled wide of his left-hand upright.
The home side also began to create chances, the first falling to the dangerous Matthew Barnes-Homer but his effort from distance failed to trouble Overland. Minutes later the Harriers striker almost turned creator when he neatly chested a long punt into the path of Chris McPhee, the Kidderminster skipper being denied by a well timed Tom Cadmore interception.
It was not long before United were testing Coleman at the other end, a weak clearance from Lee Baker was pulled down by Cochrane who hit an instant drive from 18 yards that Coleman did well to stop at the foot of his post. Just around the half hour mark Barnes-Homer again found space in the United box, this time hooking a bouncing throw over the bar at the far post.
The opening goal was only five minutes away and not surprisingly it was Barnes-Homer who beat Overland from close range after a good linking movement between McPhee and Brian Smikle on the left saw the later pull the ball back into the centre where the big striker was waiting to pounce, and he did with deadly effect.
The remainder of the half was a battle of wits between the United back-line and Barnes-Homer as the striker went sniffing a second. First he set up a shooting chance for Darryl Knights but Overland gathered after Cadmore had taken the sting out of the shot, the same combination two minutes later saw a weak effort by Knights saved comfortably by Overland. As the half drew to its conclusion Barnes-Homer tried his luck from the corner of the area but his curled effort was just past the angle.
After a little chat from the gaffer at half time it was United who came out stronger at the start of the second period. Just five minutes had elapsed when a long Overland punt saw Dale Binns race in and beat Coleman to the ball only to see defender Gavin Caines chase back and head wide of a vacant goal before the United man could catch up. Two minutes later a Green centre from the left was met by a stooping Allen-Page but his headed effort was wide of the target.
For the hosts, Martin Riley rose highest to a corner but failed to hit the target before Smikle saw a shot blocked inside the area, the loose ball came back to him and he fed Barnes-Homer but Overland was equal to his effort.
With Scott Fitzgerald now joining the fray, it was his partner Gradwell who having just been waved back onto the pitch after treatment was almost given a gift as a stray pass found the striker, he shrugged off a challenge but rushed his shot and failed to hit the target from 18 yards.
The 71st minute almost saw the goal of the season from the home side. Coleman launched a long punt downfield to McPhee who showed superb control to bring the ball down from the clouds and hit a first time volley that was inches wide of Overland's left-hand post. Six minutes later United created and missed their best chance of the game, Binns raced past Baker and centred to the on-coming Ram Marwa who rushed his effort, firing well over Coleman's goal.
Another excellent chance to equalise came United's way
just five minutes later, centurion James Mulley crossed deep from the left and the ball looked to fall perfectly to substitute Esmond James but his drive from 15 yards out just cleared the crossbar without troubling Coleman.
In the final few minutes, Barnes-Homer saw Overland hold a header from Baker's cross before at the other end a Green free-kick fell to Fitzgerald, his mis-cued shot found Gradwell who tried to divert the ball back across Coleman, despite beating the keeper he also beat the far post.
Stoppage time saw two good chances for the home side to double their winning margin, firstly Overland did well to deny Tony Finnigan and then deep in stoppage time Smikle threaded the ball through to McPhee who was denied a close range shot by a well timed Cadmore interception.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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