Altrincham 3
Harriers 2

POOR defending ensured Harriers returned to Worcestershire without any points on Saturday.

Robbie Matthews' brace was not enough as Graham Heathcote's determined side took advantage of three defensive mistakes in an error-strewn Blue Square Premier clash.

The away side had plenty of the ball in the second half but could not find their way through the home team's defence.

An unchanged Harriers line-up, buoyed by their mid-week win over Cambridge, made a bright start but the home side could have opened the scoring in the third minute.

Altrincham defender Adam Carden raced onto Chris Senior's pass but with just keeper Ross Atkins to beat he shot over.

Atkins was called into action in the seventh minute when John McAliskey tested him with a dipping 20-yard effort but the on-loan Derby shot-stopper plucked it out of the air.

Darryl Knights saw an effort well-blocked by Robbie Williams for the visitors, who were showing plenty of enthusiasm going forward.

But Altrincham were taking advantage of tons of space being conceded by Harriers' backline and were eager to shoot. Midfielder Shaun Densmore fired in a low effort straight at the keeper.

Harriers took the lead in the 15th minute after good work by captain Chris McPhee, who drove down the left and delivered a low ball which Matthews, who had evaded marker Greg Young, rifled into the back of the net at the near post.

Ten minutes later Chris Denham took advantage of some lacklustre defending to score for the hosts. The visitors did not defend Carden's left-wing cross properly and Denham had the freedom to slide a low effort beyond a helpless Atkins at the far post.

The away side searched for a second goal but found determined Altrincham defending tough to break down.

Midfielder Jack Byrne's effort from edge of the area was blocked by Williams, while Brian Smikle got in the way of fellow Harriers hitman Matthews as he broke into the box.

Harriers were caught out on the break in the 42nd minute from a corner. Atkins was equal to Carden's low shot but Denham was on hand to head the ball back into an empty net.

But Matthews found a reply straight the from the kick-off. Dean Bennett delivered a right wing cross and Matthews beat keeper Stuart Coburn with a near post header.

Harriers though were punished for some poor defending when Greg Young fired Altrincham ahead again early in the second half in spectacular fashion.

The towering centreback had pounced on Matthews' stumble and powered forward 40 yards without being challenged by a visiting player before beating Atkins with a low effort.

The away side suffered a set back when Duane Courtney limped off injured after being fouled by Anthony Danlyk and was replaced by midfielder Lloyd Kerry.

Midfielder Dean Bennett almost created a leveller when he swapped passes with Smikle but Coburn was equal to his effort.

Smikle nearly thought he'd conjured up a goal when he drove forward and hit an effort which flew a fraction wide of Coburn's left-hand post.

Marc Goodfellow and James Lawrie were threw on in a bid to find a goal but Altrincham's well-drilled back line nullified them.

Matthews was denied a hat-trick when Densmore cleared his effort off the line, while Smikle's firm low drive was saved by an out stretched Coburn.

In the end, the Aggborough outfit will be wondering how they lost a game they controlled for long periods.

Harriers: Atkins; Courtney (Kerry, 56); Riley; McPhee (Goodfellow, 65); Bennett; Knights (Lawrie, 79); Smikle; Smikle; Sharpe; Matthews; Byrne; Prosser.

Unused substitutes: McDermott; Singh.

Altrincham: Coburn; Young; Densmore; Lawton (Doran, 52); Denham; Williams; Danlyk; McAliskey (Little, 65); Senior; Carden (Welch, 91); Brown.

Unused substitutes: Smith; Saunders.

Referee: Billy Khatib. Attendance: 889 (64).