Where are they now? Former Kidderminster man Luke Jones ready for new challenge at Stevenage

(c) MTFC

(c) MTFC

In the world of lower and non-league football players continually move around.

Luke Jones has played for a total of  eight clubs and interestingly had two spells at both Mansfield Town and Kiddy during his still youthful career.

He played under Mark Yates and later Steve Burr  before moving East to  Field Mill once more in the summer of 2012.

Aggborough Chat caught up with the defender to discuss his Harriers memories, last season’s titanic title battle with his former employers and the future.

Do you look back on your time at Kiddy fondly?

Kidderminster is a good family club and all the staff and people within the structure of the club always pull together in order to try and make each campaign as successful as possible. Not only that, but when you went out as a player under the managers I did, there was always an emphasis on going out and expressing yourself and enjoying your football which brings out the best in players. My only real regret within my spells there is the fact I missed out on the play-offs narrowly twice.

During your two spells at Aggborough, what was your personal highlight? 

Luke's 91st minute winner at Haig Avenue in April 2012 saw Harriers leapfrog Southport into the Blue Square Premier League play-off places. (c) KHFC

Luke’s 91st minute winner at Haig Avenue in April 2012 saw Harriers leapfrog Southport into the Blue Square Premier League play-off places. (c) KHFC

Under my second spell with Steve Burr, I had the pleasure of captaining the side for a large part of the season, which is always a nice and proud moment at any club. From a team point of view, under Steve we produced a great spell of football near the end of the 2011/2012 campaign to put ourselves in the hunt for play-offs and during that time there were some memorable games in which we snatched late winners. At home to Newport and away to Southport were two of my favourites.

What was it like going toe to toe with Harriers in the race for the BSP title in the latter part of the season?

If I’m honest towards the end of the season, the form that the two teams had  shown meant both deserved to go up but unfortunately that’s football. Having said that, I think it was a special end to the season and at times I wondered if I made the right decision leaving but thankfully in this case I think on the outcome I did. Having known the majority of the Kiddy lads well, I tried to distance myself from contact until the league was decided because it was important to not have any distractions. There were certainly some twists and turns near the end but it’s a season I will never forget in my life!

Were you sad to see them miss out on promotion?

As soon as we had won the league I made sure I wished the majority of the lads well in the play-offs. I genuinely thought they deserved to go up on form and I was behind them as a fan in the play-offs but having put so much in for the fight for the title I think it left them drained and they had nothing left to give in the two games against Wrexham, but I’m sure they will come back strong again next year. You would think looking back on this season the title would be Kiddy’s for the taking but we know football doesn’t work like that. But I certainly expect Harriers to be challenging in some way and in my mind, they can earn a play-off spot again. What’s certain is that I will be watching Kiddy’s results and progress with added interest.

Finally, you now move onto Stevenage, what made you decide to leave Mansfield?

Jones will now play under Graham Westley at Stevenage. (PA)

Jones will now play under Graham Westley at Stevenage. (PA)

Mansfield is another great club that’s well run and supported and  I would always recommend any player to join and the same goes for Kidderminster. That made my decision all the harder especially after the special season we just encountered. The buzz at the club this year will be awesome and I can’t speak highly enough of them. As a player though, it’s always important to push yourself if you want to be the best you can and the opportunity to join a great club like Stevenage with its recent success and  League One status meant it was just too big to turn down. Football is a short career and about good timing so I’m hopeful that it will push me on to another chapter in my career.

 

Vaughan in no rush to break away from Aggborough

After a tough end to the season, the dust has now settled and focus turns to next season.

Every successful club has a solid squad with players prepared and able to come in and ‘do a job’ should the need arise.

Aggborough Chat caught up with goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan who explains his reasons for signing a contract extension.

He said: “I sat down with the gaffer and told him I wasn’t happy not playing.
“ Danny was exceptional last season but the boss told me next season is a new slate and we will both by vying for that number one spot once more.”

Few would argue the stopper joined Harriers in their best league campaign for a number of years.

Although he spent much of the 2012/2013 season on the bench, Nathan was part of a Kiddy squad who finished the campaign just two points behind leaders Mansfield.

He was between the sticks for the early part of the season and says that despite the team taking time to gel, it was a pleasure to pull on the jersey.

He said: “ It is difficult to pick out one highlight of the season as we did so well for so much of the season.
“ On a personal level my highlight was Stockport away in October. It sounds strange as we lost the game but I played well and had a lot to do in that game so I will always remember the trip.
“ Although I wasn’t involved, Newport away was one of my favourite games. There is no better feeling than beating your rivals in the last minute.”

Whilst the March encounter at Rodney Parade was a stand out result, a second half of the season that offered so much ended in heartbreak with Harriers beaten 5-2 on aggregate in the play-off semi-finals by another Welsh side in Wrexham.

Harriers missed out on a trip to Wembley after being comprehensively beaten by Wrexham. (c) BlueSquareFootball

Harriers missed out on a trip to Wembley after being comprehensively beaten by Wrexham. (c) BlueSquareFootball

Nathan believes Wrexham’s previous experience was the difference against a Worcestershire club that had never contested the play-offs previously.

Despite this disappointing setback, the club have managed to hold on to a host of key personnel and the goalkeeper expects Kiddy to be challenging again next time round.

He said: “ We don’t really have a set aim for next season. We’ve set ourselves high standards now and have kept the majority of the squad and I’m sure the manager will strengthen  should he see fit.
“ We expect to be up there challenging for promotion and hopefully we can use the experience of losing in the play-offs to our advantage this time round.”

Harriers may have fallen short but Vaughan’s former club Leamington stormed to promotion from the Southern Premier League.

Leamington secured automatic promotion. (c) Leamington Football Club

Leamington secured automatic promotion. (c) Leamington Football Club

After an early season top of the table battle with Stourbridge, the Brakes ran out comfortable league winners, finishing 12 points ahead of their Black Country challengers and Vaughan reckons it was time for Paul Holleran’s men to compete at Conference level.

He added: “I am absolutely delighted for Leamington.

“ I went down with Tony Breeden to their final match and it was a fantastic atmosphere and great to see them finally earn promotion.

“ Like Kiddy, it is a well run club and I know they’ll be aiming for higher.”

The only way is up

It’s been four days since the painful afternoon at Aggborough.

These ‘healing times are vital for any fan and give us all time to reflect on what went on.

In truth, Harriers were second best when it came to the two Wrexham showdowns and probably got what they deserved.

Yes, we finished two points off top and a significant number of points ahead of our North Wales rivals, (13 to be precise)  but Andy Morrell’s men were in exactly the same position last year and also suffered the same fate.

Instead, I feel it would be more beneficial to focus on the positive aspects of last season and think ahead to next.

After losing the first five games, many, including myself would have taken a mid- table finish.

But, under the careful guidance of Steve Burr, who time and time again proves any doubters wrong, the team stuck together and managed to turn things around.

Many of those players have come from the lower reaches of the non-league pyramid and it is their first full season in the Conference Premier.

In contrast, Wrexham have bags of experience in their ranks and players who have competed in play-off contests three or four times.

Former Newcastle Town man Anthony Malbon’s goal return has been mightily impressive and although his form tailed off towards the end of the season, Romulus’ ex-winger Marvin Johnson had a prosperous campaign.

Johnson’s performance at Hyde was one of the best individual displays I have witnessed from a Kiddy player in a long, long time.

The ‘never-say-die’ attitude of our squad is something to admire and certainly something that needs to be repeated in the 2013/2014 season.

Michael Gash will remain at Aggborough until 2015. (c) KHFC

Michael Gash will remain at Aggborough until 2015. (c) KHFC

I was delighted to read the news that striker Michael Gash has signed on for another two years. His experience and ability has spearheaded Harriers’ success and taken them to within touching distance of automatic promotion.

He seems to enjoy life at Aggborough and will be vital in our promotion push next time round.

Like at any non-league club, it is difficult to know what will happen to some players and who will be brought in but with Burr in charge I’m sure we’re in very capable hands.

Although the disappointment last Sunday was clear for all to see, we must be proud of the club’s efforts both on and  off the field.

The attendances have continued to rise and how great was it to see Aggborough full in our last two home games?

It proves the people of Kidderminster and beyond can rally round and support their local team.

After all, it is difficult to think of another Midlands team (bar Stourbridge) that have performed as well as Kiddy in their respective leagues.

Gallery

A few snaps from Wrexham (a) Play-off Semi-Final first leg

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Kiddy’s race for promotion begins at Wrexham

Wrexham_FC

Harriers visit North Wales for the second time in 10 days and if the game follows a similar pattern, we are in for a treat.

Goals from James Vincent and Michael Gash either side of Danny Wright’s stunning volley gave Kiddy three priceless points in front of a 602 strong away crowd and ensured the title race went to the wire.

Saturday’s emphatic 4-0 win over Stockport will certainly give the reds (or yellows for the purpose of this event) confidence going into the game.

Their determination to put on a show, despite knowing that Mansfield were champions after a lengthy stoppage was impressive and bodes well for the upcoming double header with Andy Morrell’s Wrexham.

Last Saturday’s game has been in the news for all the wrong reasons but the support the majority of the 1800 strong contingent from Stockport  was deafening and by far the best backing I have seen at Aggborough for many years and I hope they can make an immediate return to non-league’s highest level.

Throughout the 2012/2013 campaign, Kiddy have thrived on the big stage and recorded wins at all the top five’s homes.

More of the same will be needed this evening as Kiddy cross the border on St George’s day.

The Welsh side will be hoping it’s third time lucky after failing in the play-offs in their previous two campaigns.

The Racecourse has hosted some big games in the past (c) Mark Barnes

The Racecourse has hosted some big games in the past (c) Mark Barnes

Wrexham were relegated in 2008 following an 87-year spell in the Football League so are more determined than most to earn promotion.

Andy Morrell’s men were also boosted by the return of former Harriers favourite Mark Creighton in their weekend loss at Mansfield and he may feature.

The ‘Beast as he is affectionately nicknamed has publically expressed the affection he still holds for our club but says come kick-off at Y Cae Ras, his sole focus is on his latest club.

The home faithful will come out in their droves but let’s hope England can defeat Wales and return to Worcestershire with a postivie advantage on St George’s day.

Tuesday 23rd April Kick-off: 19.45

COYR!

Vincent focussed on the job in hand

When Harriers take to the field tomorrow afternoon, there is likely to be at least two ex Stockport players in their squad.

As Clare Bridge eluded to in the preview, Keith Briggs, Danny Pilkington, Danny Jackman and James Vincent all had spells at Stockport.

Vincent joined County as an 8-year-old and made over 70 appearances at various levels for the Hatters.

Although he looks back on his time at Edgeley Park fondly, he insist come 5.15 on Saturday, his sole focus will be on getting the two goal win Harriers need to give themselves an opportunity of winning the league.

James Vincent faces his old club at Aggborough.

He told Aggborough Chat:  “I’ll always keep an eye on how Stockport are doing but when it comes down to playing them I only have emotions for one team, KHFC.

“I think if we apply ourselves like we have done during our run we will win the game.”

Vincent scored the opening goal in last Saturday’s televised tie against Wrexham.

The 2-1 victory ensured Kiddy continued their impressive away form following wins at Newport, Grimsby, Luton and Mansfield.

Mansfield’s last-gasp win over Hereford in midweek was a clear blow in Harriers’ title charge but regardless of what happens tomorrow, the midfielder believes the reds have every reason to remain optimistic.

He said: “It’s been a great season so far. We had a difficult start but since the first 10 games we have all pulled together in  every department and got to where we are now.

“It was a great feeling scoring against Wrexham. The goal settled the team down and we came into the game and started playing our own game.

If things don’t go our way this weekend and we reach the play-offs, I can see us winning.

“We have a good record against all the top teams. We always approach every game with a view to win so we will be looking forward to every game. “

A big attendance is expected at Aggborough with both sides needing a win. The match kick-offs at 5.15pm.

COYR!

Fan’s eye view Stockport County

Kiddy take on Stockport County in a must win game for both sides on Saturday.

Harriers must hope Mansfield slip up at Field Mill whilst County must win to stand any chance of retaining their Blue Square Premier status.

Aggborough Chat caught up with County fan Clare Bridge to preview the game.

471px-Stockport_County_crest_2011

How big is Saturday’s game for SCFC?

The biggest game in our history, EVER, without doubt!

Do you think Ian Bogie is the right man at Edgeley Park?

I am positive he will take us in the right direction. He knows the league inside out. There has been a lot of swap and change this season where management is concerned. He appears to be passionate and wants to change the fortunes of the club. It’s good we’ve got him contracted for next season. Regardless of our position we’ve a man in the know. Yes, I think he’s the right man

Harriers have four ex-County players in their ranks in James Vincent, Keith Briggs, Danny Pilkington, and Danny Jackman how do you think they will feel contesting such a big game?

Keith Briggs had two separate spells at Stockport between 1999-2000 and 2005-2008 (c) SCFC

Keith Briggs had two separate spells at Stockport between 1999-2000 and 2005-2008 (c) SCFC

Keith Briggs is a legend, he played for us for years, he’s loved by County fans. I don’t think we ever saw enough of  James Vincent and especially Danny Pilkington. I fear the latter two will want to prove a point against us. It’ll be hard seeing them, especially Briggsy  celebrate if you’re promoted on Saturday.

Are you pleased to see how well the four have performed for Harriers this season?

I’m really pleased to see that they’re doing well for themselves, I hope their careers continue to prosper.

From the outside, what have you made of Kiddy’s rise up the table?

Brilliant! I find it hard to be positive about football having seen us fall so far and struggle so much this season, but I think it’s ace to see one of the ‘smaller’ (no offence) teams in the league having such a good season.

Score prediction?

I don’t want to predict the score. I WANT to say a County win, it’s all that will do!

Follow Clare on Twitter @clarebridge87

Rival watch: A Mansfield perspective on the Blue Square Premier League title race

As we approach the end of the 2012/2013 campaign, Mansfield and ourselves  are fighting it out for the Conference Premier title.

Both clubs have turned their seasons around after poor starts.

Sports journalist Craig Priest of Mansfield Matters gives his thoughts on the fascinating end to the Blue Square Premier League season.

As someone who commentates on all Mansfield’s matches, can you summarise their season overall?

I think the phrase ‘A season of two halves’ is fitting here, as like last term there wasn’t much to smile about before Christmas – Paul Cox has just got a knack of turning things around after Christmas and that’s it. In pre-season he brought in players (in some cases) for the reason that other teams wouldn’t be able to get them. He gave chances to some and it didn’t quite work out, he then trimmed the squad down and has basically breathed a new confidence into the lads, we used to take on teams and play a formation which suited them, now without being arrogant, we approach a game and play our way.

Our away form was the worst in the division and before our trip to Macclesfield in late November, we’d only won one league away game, ironically at Aggborough!

To summarise I’d say it’s been a season of early frustration and having the wrong players at the wrong time followed by a miracle, something clicked – I’ve no idea what, but I’m glad it has!

Mansfield have a number of former Kidderminster players in their side, how have they fared since they joined and in this great season for the Stags?

There was a lot of up-roar when Geohaghon re-joined us after being at Kidderminster for what, a month? Whilst he initially came in and was a regular starter, he didn’t really solve any of our problems. It was nice to have that long throw back and the atmosphere it creates at our place, but other than I can’t really say he’s made much of a difference. He’s played 24 times and has barely featured in our excellent run of form – losing his place to Luke Jones, another former Harrier, at Stockport in early January.

Exodus Geohaghon made a surprise move to the East Midlands after a brief spell at Aggborough. (c) MTFC

Exodus Geohaghon made a surprise move to the East Midlands after a brief spell at Aggborough. (c) MTFC

Since then, Jones has been a rock and is currently one of the front runners for player of the season! He and John Dempster have formed a solid partnership at the back, whilst at the other end he’s been immense too, contributing with seven goals.

The other former Harrier is Nick Wright. He’s one whose barely featured in the first team due to numerous injuries. I was delighted when he signed in the summer as he’s a similar type of player to Ross Dyer, who’s on the long term injury list. For whatever reason, Wright hasn’t really got it right when he’s been given the chance and as such, settles for the bench, the reserves and the occastional ‘get me back to Kiddy’ tweet!

I’ve been lucky to watch him in the reserves though and can say that he’s a handful, netting five goals so far. He’ll be used again at some stage in the coming weeks.

The games between the two sides this season have been interesting as the Stags came to Aggborough and won and Kiddy won at Field Mill, what have you made of the two matches?

The game at Aggborough was certainly an interesting one. It feels weird now saying that both teams were in poor form! We’d been battered at Gateshead during the week and dressing room fallouts were clear, which after two games isn’t pleasing! John Dempster came in to replace ‘Captain’ George Pilkington after his half-time substitution in the week and began the partnership we now want to see end with Luke Jones and despite it being a little rocky, we settled and showed the belief to kick on and take the points, mainly due to player-coach Andy Todd who ran the show and got us out of the muck.

The reverse fixture came only a week after Liverpool and in my opinion, changed Stags’ season. We were arrogant and awful. All the talk was still about Liverpool and how we should have beaten them, we didn’t focus and were rightfully beaten. It taught us a huge lesson in respecting other sides and having to fight for our futures and believes. The gaffer than rang the changes days later at Stockport and the rest, could be, history!

Which Harriers player impressed you most in the contest at Field Mill?

I’ve always rated Lee Vaughan to be honest, he’s exactly what I want from a full back. I seem to remember Danny Lewis having a decent game against Matt Green as well.

Danny Lewis has been a vital player for Harriers this season. (c) PA

Danny Lewis has been a vital player for Harriers this season. (c) PA

Town have juggled a fabulous FA Cup run with an astonishing late league run which so many teams struggle to do, what do you put that down to?

You know what, I have no idea! Paul Cox has the knack of it I guess. At Eastwood, he’d always start poorly and gallop to the finish, winning cups and promotions. Last season was unbelievable as we were rebuilding – losing in the play-off’s has probably turned out to be a blessing!

A lot say we’ve just found confidence at harmony, I think it goes deeper than that. The Liverpool match reminded us of what it was like to be centre of attention and in a way, a succsess – so I guess we may have used that as inspiration. For me personally, I honestly think it’s the defeat to you guys. As I said above it taught us to focus and gave us a kick up the backside to put things right – so yeah, cheers for that!

It looks as if Mansfield are going to win the Blue Square Premier League title but would you like to see Kiddy promoted via the play-offs or is there another side you feel is more worthy of a place in the Football League?

You honestly think we’ll be champions? Wow. I guess on paper it looks that way with the two games in hand, but that said we squandered the chance last Thursday at Wrexham. I’ve been saying for weeks that this season will take another twist and turn – It’ll be up to us at Hereford on the 16th I reckon.  If not then on the season’s final day – I don’t think my nerves could take it though.

I would like Kidderminster and Mansfield to go up together. Kidderminster are a good club and have always made me feel welcome visiting either as a fan or journalist. What is it, eight seasons out of the Football League now? That’s a long time to wait – you talk about our remarkable run, but don’t mention yours. A team that can rise bottom to top has to have strong characters and a belief, for that reason alone I think we’ll meet again next term in the League!

Aside

Fine if we play our cards right…

There was a real sense of disappointment amongst the Aggborough faithful after Tuesday’s draw against Woking.

Although a point wasn’t the end of the world, given Mansfield’s games in hand, it was the manner in which Harriers on two occasions conceded that made it tough to take.

I felt Steve Burr summed it up perfectly post match when he said Kiddy are simply not used to losing anymore.

And that made me think, what a tremendous position to be in.

It is easy to say in hindsight but the title was always going to be a long shot and it needed Mansfield to slip up and it hasn’t happened.

Finishing in the play-offs and hopefully reaching the final would be an enormous achievement. Kiddy have thrived in big matches this season, the latest example being the last minute win against Newport and that can only bode well if we find ourselves on Wembley way come May 5th.

Thinking ahead, who’d have thought Kidderminster Harriers would be compared to Europe’s elite in Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United?

Kiddy's new home?

Kiddy’s new home? (c) FCB

That’s what today’s Daily Mail compromises of and it certainly brought a smile to my face after what’s been a challenging year for all Midland clubs bar ourselves, West Bromwich Albion and Walsall.

In other good news, Anthony Malbon’s contract extension will also send positive vibes around Aggborough going into tomorrow’s match.

Our 16-goal man has spearheaded our rise to the top of the table and I’m sure clubs have been in touch over a potential transfer.

Another beauty of a contract extension is that should a ‘bigger’ side, in the Football League or one of our Blue Square Premier counterparts come in for ‘Malbs’ we won’t sell for a small fee.

Throughout the 2012/2013 season, the reds have reacted superbly to disappointments and poor results and I’d be surpised if we don’t see more of the same.

Taking into consideration their size, budget and resources, Braintree have again had another strong season.

They are sitting pretty on 52 points and it would take a poor run of results between now and the end of the season to see them in any danger.

To put it into perspective, the Iron sit just three points behind Luton Town.

This week, Steve Burr revealed that he does not mind if Kiddy concede four as long as they score five and if last season’s match with Braintree is anything to go by then it’s a good job he is lenient.

Harriers are unbeaten in each of their five matches with Braintree but last season’s home game produced a 9- goal thriller with Harriers edging out their opponents 5-4 .

It’s a cliche but at this stage of the season it is certainly all about results. With a big match at Kenilworth Road on Monday, a strong performance and scoreline is needed.

Prediction: 3-1