RYAN ROWE climbed off the bench to fire in a remarkable hat-trick in the space of 45 minutes and gift Harriers their first win of the season at the eleventh attempt at Cambridge United.
The management team had the rare luxury of being able to name the same squad of 16 for the clash – the same players selected as featured in the draw with Alfreton three days previously – little doubt that such a lack of consistency owing to injuries, suspension and form only further hampering the team’s poor start.
The opening throws of this contest were hardly much to warm the cockles of the fans in attendance on what was a chilly evening – inside ten minutes Michael Gash went close for the home side and forced Josh Gowling into a goal-line clearance as he struck from close range.
Harriers’ first effort at goal was 26 minutes in coming and when it came it was wasted by Callum Gittiings as he blazed over the bar from 18 yards after seeing space open up in front of him with better options perhaps placed elsewhere.
A big talking point came six minutes later with the sending off of United’s Luke Berry. The promising young player was branded his second yellow of the game and was duly given his marching orders but in truth neither foul looked worthy of serious reprimand.
Jonathan Edge, the England C goalkeeper made a good save from Keith Briggs eight minutes before the break and in reality his team should have made the breakthrough moments later but Liam Hughes wasted his shot from six yards but sprawling it wide.
Steve Burr made one change at the break with Ryan Rowe replacing Richard Peniket upfront, though six minutes into the second half it was the home side who took the lead as Josh Coulson got up well at a corner to power a header past Nathan Vaughan.
Rowe’s introduction gave Harriers a new dimension in the penalty area, though, and he got his team back on level terms with 60 minutes played as he bent an effort past Hedge and into the top of the net from the tightest of angles, a first goal of the new campaign for the former Stourbridge player.
The visitors might well have made it a quick turnaround just minutes later as they had a great opportunity to take the lead; Gowling’s low centre met by Malbon’s shot but a timely intervention from Cambridge sent the ball high over the bar.
Come 69 minutes, though, and Harriers got that second goal and it was Rowe once again – a masterful cameo further capped as he drove through a mass of bodies into the area past Hedge.
With the bit between his teeth the striker looked determined to finally open up the win column for his team and inside the final five minutes he did that and in doing so removed virtually all doubt about the result.
His third goal was easily the best of an impressive bunch as against all odds he slammed the ball against the underside of the ball and into the corner of the net before wheeling away to celebrate with the Harriers fans who won’t soon forget the night their team got off the mark at long last.
Gash had one more stab at drawing back the deficit for United and Harriers sub Ricky Shakes also stung the palms of Hedge on the counter as five minutes of injury time were successfully negotiated.
Harriers: N Vaughan, L Vaughan, Gowling, Dunkley, Demetriou, Briggs, Vincent, Gittings (Johnson 64), Peniket (Rowe 45), Malbon (Shakes 85), Blissett.
Subs not used: Lewis, Williams.
United: Hedge, Jennings, Coulson, Shaw (Jarvis 76) Gash, McCauley, Pugh, Hughes (Elliott 76), Berry, Thorpe, Andrew (Moke 66) Subs not used: Wylde, Eades.
Referee: Nick Kinseley Attendance: 1,815