Sunderland 1, Harriers 0

THE story of how plucky Harriers gave the Premier League millionaires of Sunderland a fright will be told by generations of fans.

One goal was the difference between two sides separated by 79 places, but Charis Mavrius’s fifth minute strike was the only high point for Gus Poyet’s side.

For the 3,800 travelling army who made the 450-mile round trip to Wearside they saw Harriers out-work and think their illustrious opponents and send them home with their heads held high.

The stats look stark; Harriers only had 25 per cent possession and one effort on target, while the Black Cats had 22 shots.

But that didn’t illustrate Kidderminster’s inspired defensive display. Keeper Danny Lewis was untroubled apart from a host of hopeful long range shots and, as Mickey Demetriou pointed out, ‘barely got his knees dirty’.

Sunderland looked dangerous in the first half with widemen Mavrius and Seb Larsson getting in behind too often.

But the game’s only goal came from a rare slip by the otherwise perfect Josh Gowling.

He diverted an aimless ball into the path of the Greek attacker, who gleefully slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

To Harriers’ credit they did not crumble and, much to the Mackems’ frustration, their only other clear chance fell to Italian international Emmanule Giaccherini, who slammed a first time effort inches wide.

The Azzuri star was one of ten changes from Sunderland side which had beaten Manchester United on penalties to book their place in the League Cup final.

Poyet handed debuts to Argentinian pair Oscar Ustari and Santiago Vergini and also drafted in American powerhouse Jozy Altidore.

But for all of Sunderland’s possession, they could not truly penetrate well-drilled Kidderminster, who also had two excellent chances to level the scores.

Just a few minutes after the goal, Michael Gash raced onto a horribly mis-placed pass by Giaccherini and struck goalwards, only for a full-strech Ustari to deny him.

Debutant Freddie Ladapo, who joined from Colchester less than 24 hours earlier, nearly forced a replay in the dying minutes as Harriers went for broke. But his shot rolled agonisingly beyond the far post with the keeper beaten.

“I was immensely proud of the players. I thought they were magnificent.” said manager Andy Thorn.

“When we conceded as early as we did you can end up with a cricket score, but I was really pleased with the way we regrouped and showed the character and belief in what we’re trying to do at the club.”

The likes of Gash, Gowling, Lee Vaughan, Kyle Storer will now be mentioned in the same breath as FA Cup legends Delwyn Humphreys, Jon Purdie and their generation.

The club have enjoyed the warm glow of the national spotlight and banked somewhere in the region of £220,000. Now they must re-focus on their true aim – winning promotion to the Football League.

SUNDERLAND: Ustari, Celitska, Robege, Diakite, Ba (Gardner, 65), Giaccherini (Borini, 65), Vergini, Roberge, Cattermole (Colback, 72), Mavrias. Subs not used: Pickford, Yeung, O’Shea, Watmore.

HARRIERS: Lewis 7, L Vaughan 7, DEMETRIOU 9, Storer 8, Byrne 8, Gash 7, Johnson 6 (Gittings, 68), Jackman 7, Morgan-Smith 7 (Ladapo 68), Dyer 7 (Dyer, 83), Gowling 7. Subs not used: Dunkley, Malbon, Angus, N Vaughan.
Ref: Roger East. Crowd: 25,081 (3,800)