Harriers 1, Cheltenham 2

PLUCKY Harriers tasted derby defeat after being edged out by Vanarama National League leaders Cheltenham on Boxing Day.

Harriers had fallen behind to Danny Wright's header only for on-loan West Brom defender Kyle Howkins to level with his first ever goal for the club.

But local rivals Cheltenham upped their game after the break and finally broke the resistance of goalkeeper Dean Snedker through defender Aaron Downes.

Head coach Dave Hockaday made two changes from the side that lost 3-1 at Eastleigh, handing starts to Matthew Barnes-Homer and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and switching the formation to a 5-3–2.

The hosts were clearly hoping to soak up pressure from the leaders and hit them on the break and it was the Robins who made the running early on.

In the seventh minute, Cheltenham should have scored when Wright and Jake Munns carved them open, but Andrija Novakovich saw his low effort hit the base of the post.

Ex-Kiddy man Wright headed over the bar and also saw a header from a corner saved by keeper Dean Snedker.

Rookie Kiddy midfielder Like Maxwell was booked for a late challenge on Harry Pell.

Omari Patrick was looking a threat for the hosts and he had their first real chance in the 20th minute when he pounced on an error by Downes and sped half the length of the pitch before steering his shot wide.

But Cheltenham opened scoring in the 26th minute when Wright was left unmarked to head home from a right wing cross from Downes.

Harriers reacted with gusto and made it 1-1 on the half hour mark. A fine corner from Ben Whitfield was headed goalwards by Kelvin Langmead and while keeper Dillon Phillips made a save, Howkins stabbed home.

Both teams had chances to score before the break.

The lively Patrick flicked a goalbound near post header from Whitfield but Jack Barthram cleared off the line.

The away side were denied by the woodwork on the striker of half-time, when Munns' 30-yard strike hit the woodwork.

Cheltenham made a change at the start of the second half, hauling off Novakovich for Billy Waters.

Whitfield tried his luck from distance but his effort in the 51st minute flew over the bar.

The game remained even but Barnes-Homer saw a low effort from the edge of the box saved by Phillips.

Harriers keeper Snedker kept the scores level in the 61st minute when he denied Wright's header from point blank range.

The shot-stopper then made a flying save to keep out Ryan Jennings' effort from the edge of the box.

Kidderminster skipper Jared Hodgkiss then cleared a shot off the line from ex-Harriers captain Kyle Storer.

But the home team's resistance was broken in the 67th minute. Snedker conceded a corner when denying Waters and from Munns' set-piece, Downes headed home emphatically.

Hockaday took off Barnes-Homer in the 72nd minute and replaced him with Gurjit Singh.

Young French midfielder Elton Ngwatala was handed his home debut in the 76th minute when he replaced Rowe-Turner.

Harriers pressed in the final ten minutes and Singh fired over the bar from a Whitfield cross.

It means the Aggborough outfit are bottom of the table after a fourth straight league defeat and head to Monday's game at Forest Green 11 points from safety.

Harriers: Snedker, Hodgkiss, Rowe-Turner (Ngwatala, 76), Maxwell, Langmead, Barnes-Homer (Singh, 72), Patrick, Young, Francis-Angol, Whitfield.

Subs not used: Jones, Brown, McQuilkin.

Cheltenham: Phillips, Barthram, McLennan, Storer, Downes, Parslow, Pell, Wright, Munns (Hall, 86), Jennings (Dayton, 80), Novakovich (Waters, 46).

Subs not used: Kitscha, Rowe.

Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire) Attendance: 3,238 (973)