Altrincham. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
FOOTBALL, increasingly, is a game of two halves: the pitch and the politics. While Manchester United are at loggerheads with the Football League over their wish to skip the Coca-Cola Cup, another set of champions are steeling themselves for a behind-the-scenes struggle.
Kidderminster Harriers, who clinched the Vauxhall Conference title despite this defeat, should now be looking forward to replacing Northampton in the Third Division. It is the finest achievement in their 108 years, yet the Worcestershire club are being refused entry to the League for failing to meet its New Year's Eve deadline for building a 1,000-seat stand.
No matter that Aggborough is covered on all sides, will have the requisite structure in place by August and coped well with 8,000 crowds during Harriers' FA Cup run. Or that Northampton's present home (they have a new stadium under construction) does not even meet Conference standards. The League is not for turning.
That will not stop 'Kiddy' trying. After the team's tired efforts to cancel out Stuart Terry's goal had made for a match as flat as an Arsenal back-four, the chairman, David Reynolds, put their chances of promotion at 50-50. 'We won't be going to court because that's not how we do things,' he said. 'It's pressure from League clubs that will eventually count. And we're getting support from all over the country.
''There are men of honour on the League committee, and all we want is to put our side of the story. Unfortunately, some people at the League use the excuse of what happened to clubs who had financial difficulties after going up. But compare Wycombe and Halifax: the League got a tremendous exchange there. We're more of a Wycombe than a Maidstone or Barnet.'
If Kidderminster were admitted, the irony is that they would qualify for lavish funding from the Football Trust. On Saturday they were reduced to handing leaflets for a Buy A Brick Appeal to the 4,113 crowd.
Harriers' manager, Graham Allner, is an articulate advocate with a part to play in cementing their success. But as he stood in a champagne-drenched tracksuit which would have failed a breathalyser on its own, his concern was that the players' triumph should not be overshadowed.
'Although we lost the last three, I don't feel any anti-climax,' he said. 'Whoever's top at 20 to five on the final Saturday is the best team.' By the same irrefutable logic, notwithstanding arbitrary deadlines or the dubious democracy behind the system, Kidderminster have earned the right to step up.
'Perhaps,' Allner continued, pondering a play-off with a difference, 'the League should make it a race between us and Northampton . . . to see who finishes building first.'
Goal: Terry (22) 0-1.
Kidderminster Harriers (4-4-2): Rose; Hodson, Brindley, Weir (Palmer, 63), Bancroft; Woodall (Cartwright, h-t), Grainger, Forsyth, Purdie; Humphreys, Davies.
Altrincham (4-4-2): Collings; Cross, France, Reid, Heesom; Dempsey, Carmody, Harris, Sharratt; Terry, Green. Substitutes not used: Green, Cockram.
Referee: D Campbell (Gloucester).Reuse content