Kidderminster Harriers 2-2 Grimsby Town
GRIMSBY Town were forced to settle for a draw despite twice leading against Kidderminster Harriers at Aggborough.
The Mariners dominated the first half but it took a Padraig Amond goal two minutes before the break to ensure they went into the dressing rooms with the lead.
A goal out of nothing brought the home side level when a poor back-pass led to Reece Styche making it 1-1 just after the hour.
Town did not take long to restore their advantage though, as Andy Monkhouse scored his first goal for the club in front of the 1,689 travelling supporters.
From there, the away side looked to be in a winning position but there was a sting in the tail, as Aman Verma’s stoppage time header rescued a point for Kidderminster.
Omar Bogle came straight into the starting XI for Town despite missing several of the pre-season friendlies through injury.
He started alongside Amond in attack, who was looking to add to the nine goals he scored in the warm-up games with one that would count.
James McKeown started in goal, with Toto Nsiala beginning at right-back in place of Richard Tait, who had to be contect with a place on the bench. Shaun Pearson, Josh Gowling and Danny East made up the back four.
Nathan Arnold began on the right of midfield, with Craig Disley and Craig Clay in the middle and Monkhouse on the left, as Amond and Bogle formed the strike partnership.
Tait, Gregor Robertson, Jack Mackreth, Harry Clifton and Josh Venney were the Grimsby substitutes.
Kidderminster would be looking to former Forest Green frontman Styche to get the goals to get their season off to a good start.
The game kicked off in bright sunshine, with the travelling Town fans in fine voice.
But it was the hosts who had the first sight of goal, with Luke Maxwell drilling a 20-yard shot at McKeown on four minutes.
Disley shot onto the roof of the net as Town threatened for the first time after a good period of possession, then Amond beat an offside trap but could not beat home keeper Dean Snedker, who dived to stop the Irishman’s low shot.
A deflected shot earned the home side the first corner of the game on 14 minutes and Adam Dawson’s delivery from the right was headed back to him by Pearson. After good work by Arnold to stop the winger’s progress, he eventually got a cross in but it was caught by McKeown.
Town had a penalty appeal turned down when Arnold went down under a challenge from Snedker after failing to get the ball under control but referee Brett Huxtable was not interested and the game continued.
Another chance almost came when Bogle beat the keeper to a deep cross from Nsiala but nobody in the blue of the Mariners was there to profit from the loose ball.
Neither side had settled as the 20-minute mark passed, with few clear-cut chances created in a scrappy opening period.
Bogle created an opportunity for himself on 24 minutes though, turning and letting fly with a 25-yard shot that was caught by Snedker.
A second Kidderminster corner briefly caused problems inside the Town penalty area after it was played short but the Mariners were eventually able to clear it.
Bogle was bundled over by Lathaniel Rowe-Turner to bring about a free kick in a dangerous position on 32 minutes. The defender was booked before Arnold’s shot was saved by Snedker.
Arnold had another opportunity soon afterwards after bursting into the Harriers box but looked to pick out a team-mate instead of shooting and the keeper gathered.
It was becoming a game between Snedker and Arnold and the pair were involved again soon afterwards, with the striker latching onto Monkhouse’s through-ball but the keeper once again coming out on top after coming off his line to block the shot.
The same thing happened again on 38 minutes as Arnold was denied by Snedker, this time at the expense of a Grimsby corner on the left, which was headed clear.
The next time the Mariners went forward, the deadlock was broken. Bogle played a ball through for strike-partner AMOND and this time, he beat the offside trap and calmly slotted past the outrushing Snedker and into the bottom corner of the net to make it 1-0 with 43 minutes on the clock.
One additional minute was played at the end of the half and with no further chances created by either side, Town went in at half-time with the lead.
Jake Green replaced Kelvin Langmead for the home side before the restart and Verma had the first chance of the second half but sent his long-range effort straight through to McKeown.
Monkhouse then battled his way through the Kidderminster defence and into the box four minutes in but was not allowed to get a shot in as the ball was eventually cleared.
Bogle won a corner on the Town left as the visitors looked to be getting into their stride but the ball was brought clear by Verma and the hosts launched a break, which led to Gowling having to head a cross clear.
Striker Craig Reid was sent on to bolster the home attack in place of Andre Wright on 56 minutes.
Town looked to be in control, so when Kidderminster equalised on the hour, they only had themselves to blame. A heavy back-pass from East proved too strong for McKeown to control, allowing STYCHE to nip in and slot the ball past him from 20 yards. The goalscorer was then yellow-carded for his celebrations, aimed at the Town management team.
Bogle sent a shot over the bar from a free kick as the Mariners looked for an immediate reply.
But instead, it was Kidderminster who were starting to get on top as the visitors began to lose their composure, giving away possession cheaply and allowing their hosts too much ground.
Grimsby were back on track on 66 minutes though, when their lead was restored. Bogle won a corner on the left and after it was headed back across goal by Nsiala, MONKHOUSE was there to slam the ball past Snedker.
The goal seemed to settle Town, as they started to play more football, although midfielder Joe Clarke sent a reminder that the game was not yet won when he smashed a powerful shot just wide from 25 yards.
Styche then saw an effort caught by McKeown, also from range, as the hosts looked for a second equaliser.
Arnold won a corner at the other end on 77 minutes but as he sent it across from the right, the referee blew for a free kick to the home side.
Tahvon Campbell replaced Maxwell for Kidderminster with nine minutes to go, before Mackreth came on in place of Amond two minutes later.
Kidderminster were still pressing for an equaliser as the clock ticked down but Town were determined to see the game out and claim their first opening day win since 2010.
Bogle set off on a run from halfway but was eventually thwarted as he got to the penalty area, before he almost had a chance after good work by Arnold on the left but was unable to control the winger’s cross.
Three additional minutes were signalled at the end of the regulation 90 and in the second of those extra minutes, the home side had their leveller. A cross from Jared Hodgkiss on the right fell for VERMA at the far post and he did the rest, steering a header past McKeown and into the net.
Town had looked to be heading towards all three points but instead, they headed home with just one to show from a game they should have won.
The Mariners are next in action on Tuesday, when Barrow are the first visitors of the season to Blundell Park.