Football Commentary/ FA Cup: Harriers are left to build for the future: Chapman ends old colleague's dream

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The Independent Online
THE CUP'S infinite capacity for coincidence played a prominent part as West Ham, adding a new twist to an old adage, left Kidderminster Harriers to concentrate on the League and the Vauxhall Conference.

When Graham Allner played for Stafford Rangers in the 1970s, the manager, the late Roy Chapman, would let his son train with the team. Allner, now in charge of Kidderminster, encouraged the schoolboy striker to put his university plans on hold in favour of football. On Saturday, Lee Chapman repaid him by ending the carpet town's magical ride to the fifth round.

After the 8,000 crowd had shuffled out of Aggborough, the old Staffordians were reunited in the tunnel. Together, but worlds apart: Allner, wearing a forlorn, faraway look, waited almost unnoticed to do a radio interview while Chapman, looking as if he had just stepped off the cover of GQ, talked television through the game's only goal.

There was no triumphalism. On a different day, the part-timers' enterprise might have earned a replay, though they were restricted almost exclusively to half-chances. 'You could tell they were a good side but I couldn't see them making a goal,' Chapman said. 'It was going to have to be one of those 30-yard specials out of the blue.'

Lately they have been coming from the red, the white and the yellow, too, a pattern of Premiership failures which had obviously coloured Chapman's feelings. 'I was more nervous than I've ever been before a game,' he confessed, quite an admission for one whose career spans 16 years. 'We were on a hiding to nothing.'

Now, ironically, it is Kidderminster who are seemingly in a no-win situation. The Football League has decreed that they will not be allowed into the Third Division if they win the Conference - in which Kettering and Southport have dislodged them as leaders - because they did not have a 1,000- seat stand built by 31 December.

The Worcestershire club's chairman, Dave Reynolds, has enlisted the local MP to challenge what he calls a 'critical shift in criteria' and the 'unrealistic and unnecessary' deadline. Not unreasonably, they are also pressing the Football Trust, the Pools-funded body which contributes towards ground improvements, for parity with the Scottish Second Division.

Kiddermister's catchment area has a population of 100,000, Reynolds claimed, whereas Brechin's struggles to reach five figures. Harriers' home has cover on sides where Northampton, the League's most endangered club, do not even have sides, and West Brom have offered an interim ground-share.

The bottom line, though, is that Lytham St Annes appears determined not to admit them. While this might be understandable in view of the spectre of Barnet and Co, it will baffle all who witnessed the professionalism Kidderminster brought to the organisation of West Ham's visit.

By the smooth staging of a potentially fraught fixture, they proved a point but sacrificed a small fortune. The previous non-League outfit to reach the last 16, Telford in 1985, played before more people when they bowed out at Everton than Allner's men have in a six-match, six-month odyssey.

Reynolds estimated that they had made pounds 160,000 from their Cup run, yet was making no promises about buying players. 'We're not really a big-money club,' he explained with a lack of bravado unimaginable from Barnet in the Fry-Flashman era. 'This will keep the bank happy, pay off some bills and help towards improving facilities.'

A public-relations exercise? Certainly, but Kidderminster's charm and efficiency was of the kind that cannot be turned on and off at will. And if the way to a reporter's notebook is through his stomach, Allner may have been right when he joked that the media do not want his club in the League. They want them in the Premiership.

Scoring on the pitch was always going to be harder, despite the attacking wiles of Delwyn Humphreys, damp-course proofer of the parish.

Ludek Miklosko's command of his area, allied to Alvin Martin's reading of events around it, gave West Ham a platform on which to display their superior touch and mobility, although Martin Weir and Chris Brindley policed Chapman and Clive Allen well.

When the latter was substituted, the knee-jerk reaction of some visiting fans was that it ought to have been Chapman. Within a minute, however, Kevin Rose made 'the worst mistake of my career' by half- coming for a deep cross, and the 10- club veteran headed the winner for the second round running.

Chapman was on Stoke's books when they lost at home to Blyth Spartans in 1978, since when his FA Cup luck has not improved noticeably.

At 34, and with three-quarters of the elite out, he will never have a better chance of completing a set of domestic medals.

Next weekend, West Ham take on Manchester United. The same afternoon, as if to remind Allner of advice that came back to haunt him, Kidderminster return to the real world . . . against Stafford.

Goal: Chapman (69) 0-1.

Kidderminster Harriers (4-4-2): Rose; Hodson, Brindley, Weir, Bancroft; Cartwright (Deakin, 78), Grainger, Forsyth, Purdie; Humphreys, Davies. Substitutes not used: Woodall, Steadman (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Martin, Rowland; Marsh, Bishop, M Allen, Holmes; Chapman, C Allen (Morley, 68). Substitutes not used: Brown, Kelly (gk).

Referee: G Pooley (Bishop's Stortford).

(Photograph omitted)