Excitement building ahead of Harriers’ big Cup clash

Jimmy O’Connor can feel the excitement building in Kidderminster as Harriers aim to reach the third round of the FA Cup.

Kidderminster Harriers
Kidderminster Harriers

Victory over FC Halifax Town at Aggborough tomorrow would put Kidderminster in the draw with the Premier League big boys – including Liverpool, Manchester City, Wolves and Villa.

One of O’Connor’s earliest Cup memories is Harriers’ 2-1 triumph over Birmingham City in the 1993/94 season – and he and boss Russ Penn would love to set up another history-making Cup tie.

“For me and Russ it’s just another game we think we can do well in, but for the town you feel it around the place,” said the former Walsall and Doncaster Rovers defender. “Kidderminster is a big club , but it’s been a while since we last had a build-up to a big game like this – people are getting a feel for what it’s like. It’s just giving everyone a little taste again of what it could be like if we can get back up there.

“You can see a connection between the players, management and support, which is being built again – hopefully this is another step because we are taking great pride in building that relationship.”

Harriers have endured lean years since losing their National League Premier status in 2016 – two play-off defeats have given way to a couple of mid-table finishes and then an abandoned campaign last time out because of Covid.

However, they overcame National League Premier title-chasers Grimsby Town in the first round – part of a six-match winning run they head into tomorrow’s second-round tie on.

“There’s a lot of work behind the scenes all around the club from the very top working hard to change the mentality and get us back on track,” said O’Connor.

“You have felt it over the last few weeks and months building and it’s up to us to give the town a team they can get behind.”

Halifax come into the game one point and one place above the aforementioned Grimsby in the standings – and O’Connor is under no illusion as to how tough a task his side faces in the Cup again.

“We prepare right for every game,” he said. “They are a very good side and, there is no disrespect there, but I think we are quite a good side as well and we can be a match for anyone in our league and the league above.”

This is the first time Harriers have reached the second round since going all the way to the fourth round as a Conference Premier side in 2013/14.

On that occasion, they also had non-league opposition in round two – overcoming Curzon Ashton – before going on to beat Peterborough United in a third-round replay and then coming up just short at Premier League Sunderland.

O’Connor also has fond cup memories, having earned a replay for Doncaster Rovers against boyhood club Villa in the 2008/09 FA Cup and then scoring against Premier League champions Chelsea in a League Cup defeat for Walsall in 2015. He said: “If you can get into the hat for the third round, it’s always an exciting draw because you have the big boys – I was lucky enough to play against Chelsea when they were champions – but we have to get into that hat first.”

Left winger Nick Clayton-Phillips is cup-tied for Harriers, while midfielders Cliff Moyo and Lewis Montrose remain long-term injury absentees.

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