HARRIERS will sit bottom of the National League at Christmas as poor goals cost them dear once again in a 2-1 defeat to Southend United at Aggborough.

Ashley Hemmings pulled his team level in the first half, but is goal was either side of a brace of cheaply-conceded efforts that saw the Roots Halls side condemn Russ Penn’s men to another defeat.

Russ Penn made two changes to the side that fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Maidenhead United. After fleeting glimpses of Gold Omotayo off the bench in the last two matches, Harriers fans finally got to see their newest signing from the off as he came in for Amari Morgan-Smith.

Elsewhere, Captain Shane Byrne made his first competitive start since the opening day and his knee injury suffered against Woking, at the expense of Kai Lissimore who dropped to the bench.

Harriers were first to test a goalkeeper when Hemmings saw a header well held, but Southend strode ahead with their first attack, poor defending again allowing a cross to come into the unmarked Oli Coker at the far post who helped himself, tucking the ball home off Christian Dibble.

Ryan McLean sliced a volley well wide of the target with the home side’s first riposte, but there was an equaliser with 27 minutes played. Jack Lambert’s free kick was never fully dealt with, and Byrne nodded the ball into the path of Hemmings who slammed the ball home for his ninth of the campaign.

Harriers were never able to build on that, though, and only great work from Krystian Pearce prevented Mauro Vilhete from finishing from close range with three to go until the interval. The break did see Southend ahead, though, when Nathan Ralph came through a crowd of defenders to head past Dibble.

Brooklyn Kabongolo’s close-range effort kept Dibble alert moments after the restart before Byrne nodded a header over with what was a too-rare opportunity in front of goal for the hosts in the second period.

In fact, the game only sprang back into life in the final 15 minutes, starting with huge penalty appeals for the visitors as sub Henry Sandat went down after taking the ball beyond Dibble, referee Dale Baines unmoved.

Ten minutes later, Harriers finally began to work the Southend goalkeeper, Collin Adeng Ndi making a breathtaking save to thwart Amari Morgan-Smith who looked to nod home Lambert’s corner, hooking the ball away from on the goal line. From the corner that followed, the custodian then thwarted the marksman once more with a strong parry.

United should then have put the game to bed when Sandat chipped the ball wide with just Dibble to beat, Morgan-Smith then denied once more as he looked to find the net with venom.

Harriers head into the Christmas period with a double header against Boreham Wood. The Reds make the journey south on Boxing Day, before hosting the return fixture at Aggborough on Saturday, 30th December at 3pm.