HARRIERS cut the gap to the safety line in the National League to a point with a sensational 3-1 victory at National League Champions Chesterfield. 

Goals from Ashley Hemmings, Zak Brown and Matt Preston ended a proud, unbeaten home record for the Spireites stretching back more than 50 games, as the quest for survival took another dramatic twist.

Following Good Friday’s defeat to Altrincham at Aggborough Stadium, boss Phil Brown raised a few eyebrows with his team selection, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain handed his first league start since last September as one of our changes to the eleven.

Sammy Robinson and Matt Preston were also handed starts, while Reiss McNally was also restored to the eleven. Cole Kpekawa, Jack Lambert and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas were among those made to do with a spot on the bench each.

It was the ideal start for a new-look Harriers of sorts – just four minutes on the clock when they silenced an 8,000 crowd with the opener. A long throw into the area was nodded down into the path of Ashley Hemmnings who took a touch before superbly finishing on the angle.

Chesterfield responded with a free kick around the half-hour, but Christian Dibble did well to turn his free kick aside, seconds before the opener. Former Harrier Bailey Hobson advanced out wide and saw his cross blocked by Alex Penny, the ball firing up and at the unwitting Matt Preston who, wrongfooted, inadvertently diverted the ball beyond his own goalkeeper.

An outstanding Dibble stoop on 41 minutes showed his reactions. Ash Palmer’s shot from inside the area looked to be heading for the bottom corner, but the shot-stopper threw himself at it to turn it wide of the post.

Though under the cosh at the end of the first half, Harriers repeated their trick of flying out of the blocks come the second and, within three minutes, they were in front again. Zak Brown raced through and shot, his initial effort saved by Boot, only for Brown to pounce and tidy away the follow-up.

Ten minutes later the afternoon of around 350 away fans got even better. A long throw once again caused problems, Preston turning and shooting low, finding the net via the post for his first ever Harriers goal.

Preston inexplicably came close to his second Reds goal of the day eight minutes later when he let fly from just outside the area, but a good, strong pair of hands from Boot ensured he gathered the ball up.

In truth, Chesterfield offered next to nothing of a threat in the second period despite their spell of dominance in the first, and Harriers held on for what was a richly deserved victory.

Harriers now have back-to-back home games in their bid to salvage points for their survival quest – FC Halifax Town are due in Worcestershire for a Saturday evening clash, kick-off 5:30pm as the game is televised on TNT Sports.