HARRIERS picked up a 1-0 win at Chorley to take a slim lead into Sunday’s huge Aggborough second-leg in the National League North semi-finals.
An Arthur Gnahoua rocket late in the tie was enough to settle a tense affair that is still wide open ahead of the second leg back in Worcestershire.
Harriers made a number of changes to the team that downed Bradford Park Avenue a few days prior, with Supporters Player of the Season, James McQuilkin drafted back into the starting eleven while Frenchman Elton Ngwatala was forced to miss out through injury after sustaining an injury to his problematic shoulder in that 3-1 victory over Avenue.
Elsewhere, Jared Hodgkiss came back into the eleven at the expense of Tyrone Williams, and Andre Brown was factored back into starting contention at the expense of Darryl Knights. There was also a return to the squad for Mani Dieseruvwe, the striker who finished the regular season out on loan at North outfit Boston United.
After a start that was as tense as the occasion would demand, Harriers settled the better and went close through an ambitious effort from Brown that looped over the bar before Tunnicliffe, with 19 minutes played, nodded a header onto the Chorley bar from a free-kick.
Past the midway point of what was a feisty half, Hornby extended himself to deal with a Blakeman free-kick, a well-taken attempt that rose over the wall and toward the target, where the Burton Albion loanee was on hand to ensure it was guided around the foot of the post.
Branagan remained the busier of the two goalkeepers as we entered into the second half – he was called upon to keep out another effort from Ironside at point-blank range; that coming before his woodwork would rescue him from a driving shot that looked destined for the back of the net.
The Chorley stopper did solidly throughout but two of him would have struggled with the goal that finally broke the deadlock with 78 gone, Gnahoua striding forward and powerfully driving an effort past his dive and into his top corner.
That gave Harriers the advantage they needed; and they went on to defend it heroically – even managing to go close to a second when Tunnicliffe saw a header flicked wide.
In the sixth minute of four added on there was one final chance for Chorley, but Whitham saw his volley fly over the bar.
HARRIERS: Hornby, Hodgkiss, Francis-Angol (Williams 90), Croasdale, Lowe, Tunnicliffe, Waite (Dieseruvwe 90), McQuilkin, Ironside, Gnahoua (Carter 79), Brown.
Subs not used: Sonupe, Truslove.
Attendance: 2,487 Referee: Marc Edwards