By Amos Murphy
Kiddy seconds away from shootout with West Ham
Nestled in the north-east corner of a packed Aggborough Stadium sits an advertisement board reading “Football, what’s the hype?”. For 90 minutes or so of their FA Cup Fourth Round tie with West Ham United, the hype was very much real.
Taking the lead through an Alex Penny rocket midway through the first half, the Kidderminster supporters packed inside Aggborough Stadium were forced to endure an agonising wait to see if their side could hold on. Ultimately, a Declan Rice strike deep into added time would deny the Harriers the most famous of FA Cup upsets.
As the game trundled into extra-time, an almost poetic black cloud descended over what had been an afternoon of glorious sunshine. The chants had stopped and the orchestra had put down their instruments, as Kidderminster were forced to play to West Ham's tune. With just 20 seconds of the tie left to play, Jarrod Bowen popped up with the winning goal, sending the visitors, somewhat undeservedly, into the fifth round.
Kiddy nail Hammers to the ground in opening half
After the pre-match music ensemble had died down and the game got underway, the hosts struggled to match the early intensity of their Premier League visitors. With a wry smile, Hammers boss David Moyes must’ve been thinking his side were in for a comfortable evening.
Yet, despite the plucky non-league tag that went before them, Kidderminster quickly grew into the contest, and registered the first two shots on target of the tie. Latching onto a bouncing ball on the edge of the box, Sam Austin’s effort stung the palms of Alphonse Areola, before Ashley Hemmings sent a tame effort into the midriff of the West Ham shot-stopper.
Whilst they may have troubled the three-time FA Cup winners, the 1,600 plus West Ham supporters could not have envisaged what came next. Arriving late on to a loose ball in the Hammers’ penalty area, defender Penny rifled his effort into the roof of the net. Cue bedlam in the home end.
From a wry smile to a growl, a worried Moyes trudged down the Aggborough tunnel knowing his side had plenty of work to do. Not so much complete a pass, as create a meaningful chance, the hosts made the top-flight side look amateur.
West Ham find extra gear in dying stages
Embarrassed throughout the first period, Moyes wasted little time in calling upon his star-studded bench, with the Hammers boss making two changes at the beginning of the second half. Having spent the opening 45 minutes receiving stick from the Aggborough faithful, midfielder Rice was amongst the West Ham changes, with Craig Dawson joining the England international from the bench.
Desperately in need of a spark, the away side started to push their National League North opponents further back, before eventually threatening the Kidderminster goal. Bowen, once a non-league footballer with Hereford United, drew a sharp right-handed save from Luke Simpson, with Nikola Vlasic also testing the Harriers goalkeeper moments later.
Not frightened by the increased efforts of West Ham, the home side continued to press forward in typical Harriers fashion. A well-worked free-kick almost led to the hosts second, but goalscorer Penny was unable to add his tally for the afternoon. At the opposite end the Hammers players resorted to less than sportsman-like conduct to try and wriggle themselves away from impending humiliation. Referee Jonathan Moss not convinced by Andriy Yarmolenko's attempts to win a penalty.
As the Hammers onslaught began to take hold in the closing stages, the noise intensified. Every pass, kick and touch of the ball was met with a wall of impenetrable sound. Ultimately, the resistance would finally be broken deep into added time. Just when it felt as if the match was reaching its crescendo, midfield general Rice stormed the Kidderminster barricade to force extra-time.