HARRIERS were relegated back to National League North after just one season in the top tier of non-league football following a 1-0 defeat to Eastleigh.

The Aggborough men were beaten on home soil for the 11th time league action this season, thanks to a single goal from prolific Eastleigh man Paul McCallum.

The win for the Spitfires confirmed their safety for another season but condemned Harriers to an immediate return to football at step two after a run of just one win from their last nine league games.

“It’s a disappointing day for everybody involved at the football club,” reflected the veteran manager.

“It’s difficult to find the words to say anything after a game of football when we did emulate the whole season today.

“We came up against a player who’d scored his 35th goal of the season… we’ve got 39 goals in total.

“That in itself just about sums it up.”

For a high-stakes encounter, Harriers made four changes to their starting eleven with Jack Lambert, Regan Griffiths, Krystian Pearce and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas securing returns to the side, with Zak Brown and Gold Omotayo among those to miss out.

With ten minutes on the clock, young loanee Charlie Weston almost had the home side ahead with a fizzing drive from outside the area, but the ball crashed wide of the target.

Just past the half hour, though, it was the visitors who were in front as McCallum’s sublime header from cross into the box soared past Christian Dibble.

Come the hour, McCallum almost turned provider for Oscar Rutherford, who was denied by Dibble, 12 yards from goal.

With the final 15 minutes of the game ahead, Harriers finally began to work goalkeeper Joe McDonnell. Lambert’s angled effort produced a gem of a flying stop, while sub Gold Omotayo took the ball down superbly at close range only to fire over the target.

Harriers pushed Eastleigh all the way in a frantic finale as Lambert, Morgan-Smith and Emmanuel Thomas all had efforts to try and force a way to turn the score around but. In the end, it would have mattered little as results elsewhere conspired to all but relegate the Reds in any case.

Now, Harriers must travel to play-off contenders Barnet on next weekend’s final day with only pride to play for.

Reflecting further on the defeat, Brown added: “I thought today we had enough good chances, enough opportunities and enough possession.

“We had a couple of saves from [Christian Dibble] and he kept us in the game and, at 1-0, if we’ve got a goal scorer then we’ve got a chance of nicking something from the game.

“You’re asking the players to give everything to the cause and take it into the last game, and we couldn’t quite do that.”