Non-League Football: Harriers wary of harrying

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The Independent Online
In front of the biggest crowd to watch a non-League game this season, Kidderminster Harriers and Bromsgrove Rovers overcame mud and rain but not each other on Tuesday. The 1-1 draw took Harriers a point clear of Kettering at the top of the GM Vauxhall Conference and, with three games in hand, they are firm favourites to secure the title.

Whether this will be enough to earn promotion to the Football League, however, is still to be settled. Unable to meet the 31 December deadline to provide a minimum of 1,000 seats, Harriers were told by the League that they would not be eligible for elevation, should they win the Conference. Led by their chairman, David Reynolds, they have mounted a campaign to overturn that ruling.

Harriers require pounds 425,000 to complete work on a new stand. While each Third Division club can rely on pounds 750,000 from the Football Trust to fund ground improvements, the 22 Conference clubs have the same amount to share between them. Kidderminster are hoping for pounds 250,000 of that money this season - a decision on how much they receive will be made at a GMVC management committee meeting on 21 April.

Even if they can fund their new stand, Harriers still have to win their appeal to the League against its decision to exclude them. Given that the League looks likely to bend the rules to aid First Division clubs unable to comply with Lord Justice Taylor's requirement for all- seat grounds by August, Reynolds wants a similar fair hearing for his club's problems.

'We are still hopeful of being allowed in, if we win the title,' he said yesterday. 'We must be careful not to upset the organisation we want to join, though, so we are persisting with a softly-softly approach, rather than resort to the big stick at this time.'

Harriers will go four points clear if they win tonight's home game against Gateshead. Tuesday's crowd of 4,438 at Aggborough saw the home side take a 12th-minute through Paul Grainger but injury-hit Rovers, who are struggling to stay up after finishing second last term, gained a deserved equaliser through Jimmy Skelding's penalty five minutes from time. Kettering are at Northwich Victoria tomorrow.