IT’S fantastic when you go in to a game expecting little and coming away with a lot.

Despite a pretty decent Christmas period with a couple of home wins and a load of goals, the defeat at York City on New Year’s Day really let the air out of our tyres. It highlighted a lot of the concerns we have about our side. With that lingering in the background, the thought of playing another full-time outfit after so many games in a short space of time really didn’t fill me with hope. Add to it that Kidderminster Harriers are usually really well-drilled, have loads of attacking movement and they’d just signed the guy we all rated so highly last season, my expectations for the game were hovering just above rock bottom.

Arriving at Blackwell Meadows at around 2pm, it felt noticeably quieter than usual. The pre-match conversation featured various scorelines by which we expected the visitors to beat us. Everything was a bit sombre. The opening ten minutes did nothing to dispel the mood. We did nothing wrong but Kidderminster had an awful lot of the ball. They shifted us around from side to side although they didn’t really do anything too progressive with their possession. And then the game-changer.

In his recurring role of providing the unexpected, if anyone would score a goal from nothing, it is Stephen Thompson. As the ball went over the goalkeeper’s head, there was a degree of disbelief crossing my mind but as it hit the back of the net, disbelief turned to joyous surprise. What a way to take the lead.

While the goal was a real humdinger, the most pleasing aspect of the first half was the way we as a team nullified the threat posed by one of the better sides in the league. The three-man central defensive unit was solid, the midfield pare of Joe Wheatley and Tom Elliott won their battle and most importantly we kept their defence really honest with our threat on the counter. In all areas of the pitch we posed challenges that a full-time Kidderminster side full of quality players could not work out. It was fantastic.

The two early goals in the second half really swung the game our way. All of a sudden, we look like a threat at set-pieces, something that we haven’t since Tommy Wright took over. The glancing header at the near-post from Will Smith cemented our control of the game while Jordan Nicholson’s goal so quickly afterwards pretty much won it. At 2-0, it felt like we would have a reasonable chance of sealing the win. At 3-0, we were home and hosed.

The most pleasing aspect of the day was how we managed the rest of the game. We remained in control. The standard didn’t slip, even with enforced changes. It was a real chalk and cheese showing compared to the poor showing at Bootham Crescent just a few days earlier, exactly the response needed. The only downside, albeit inevitable, was the two or three hundred missing fans who decided to give the game a swerve following the poor showing at York.

What we saw on Saturday is a team where nobody was left behind. Every single player put in a shift and played to a level which should be expected on a more regular basis. The three at the back were excellent. I particularly liked Will Smith’s performance. He was quietly efficient on the right side of the three. Meanwhile, our midfield two looked like the pair that started the season. From an attacking point of view, Kidderminster couldn’t deal with our mobile front two supported by Nicholson floating here, there and everywhere.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not keen on the three at the back approach which Tommy seems so keen on, but if we can make it work that effectively on a more regular basis between now and the end of the season our relegation worries will disappear. Meanwhile, we might even start feeling a bit more comfortable in our surroundings at Blackwell Meadows if we keep up the good home performances.