Hero Lance Cronin keeps the Fleet on level terms…
Lance Cronin was the hero as he kept Kidderminster, or more specifically Matthew Barnes-Homer, at bay with a string of fine saves. With Fleet up against it in the first half, Cronin was superb from start to finish in a game that the visitors will come away from wondering how they did not turn possession and opportunities into at least a single goal.
It was an unchanged side for manager Liam Daish though he might well be tempted to alter things at Stevenage with two new signings rumoured to be in the offing. And the boss will be pleased at how his charges stood up to long spells of pressure from a mobile Harriers attack given their occasional naivety against Cambridge some days before.
Although the home side saw Magno Vieira’s header mark the first foray forward, it was the visitors who stepped into top gear first and rarely let up. Darryl Knights had an effort blocked in the six-yard box and he then created another chance on 12 minutes finding former Fleet hero Chris McPhee who in turn played in Brian Smikle but Cronin pulled off the first of a rack of smart saves.
Barnes-Homer stung Cronin’s hand with a shot and Duane Courtney also kept the Fleet keeper busy as the visitors posted possession stats of 70-30 in their favour. For the Fleet, James Lindie hit a shot just over the bar and Gavin Heeroo planted a tame shot into Dean Coleman’s hands before Harriers upped their shots on target to seven which produced more magic from Cronin.
On 38 minutes he thwarted Barnes-Homer with a wonderful double save, the first from a half-volley and the follow-up from the Harriers striker palmed away by Cronin’s left hand even as he fell backwards. Two minutes later the England C stopper was in action again, meeting Smikle’s near-post flicked header before it could squeeze in.
Things calmed down for Cronin a little in the second half, but he could have done without a wayward Darius Charles back pass that was charged down by Barnes-Homer and ricocheted off the bar. But the Fleet’s passing game was more composed and Heeroo got stuck into the Harriers midfield as the home side gradually appeared to gel more as a team, something Daish must hope only continues to improve.
And in a quiter second period, it was the finale that brought the excitement. On 80 minutes, Cronin ensured the man of the match award with a full-length flying save after Barnes-Homer turned inside Leon Crooks, cut inside to let fly with an excellent shot.
The Fleet were then almost gifted a winner when Gavin Caines’ back pass was woefully short and Ishmael Welsh pounced and took a shot on the turn which Coleman helped put wide. Scott Shulton headed just over in a rare spell of concerted Fleet pressure and substitute Jamie Forshaw was also denied though proved to be a handful for the short while he was on.
But Cronin refused to leave the limelight for his teammates, saving his best work until last. With barely a minute left on the clock, Courtney went wide to reach a long ball almost on the byline and did well to cross into McPhee’s path and his well-directed shot was somehow blocked by Cronin as collective groans were caught in home fans’ mouths. Barnes-Homer’s follow-up was deflected wide to give the Fleet a share of the spoils and Harriers left to rue their succession of missed opportunities.
TEAM: Cronin, Salmon, Collins, Crooks, Charles, Heeroo, Shulton, Welsh (Forshaw 83), Shakes, Lindie, Vieira (Wills 79). Subs not used: Lamprell, Pooley, West