Match Report: Avenue 1-1 Kidderminster Harriers

Only a point separated the two sides prior to the fixture, which was destined to be an interesting affair considering the play-off ambitions of the two. Adam Nowakowski opened the scoring for Avenue, before Emmanuel Sonupe equalised on the stroke of half-time to salvage a point for Kidderminster.

The visitors dictated the tempo in the early stages of the match, and appeared most likely to break the deadlock in a game many believed could go either way. Joe Ironside forced a strong hand from Steve Drench within the opening ten minutes, as he found space from just inside the 12-yard box and struck low with power.

James McQuilkin then threaded an exquisite pass through to the dangerous Sonupe, whose shot edged mere inches wide of Drench’s post.

Despite the pressure, it was Avenue who provided the clinical touch. Ryan Toulson found space on the right flank, before squaring across the six-yard box for the on-rushing Adam Nowakowski to bundle home on his return to the starting eleven.

Moments later, the home side came close to doubling their advantage, when goal scorer Nowakowski’s drilled effort appeared to strike the arm of a Kidderminster defender. The protests of the Avenue players, however, were in vain, as the referee waved away the incensed group.

Mark Bower’s side were forced to swallow another bitter pill just minutes later, with half-time looming. Ironside cut-in from the left to deliver the ball on a plate for Sonupe, who maintained his composure to level.

The second-half brought no goals, but a whole host of opportunities for both sides to edge ahead. Joel Taylor found an unmarked Ironside with a fantastic delivery from the left, but the striker’s failed to convert from just outside the six-yard box.

Elton Ngwatala then almost sent the Harriers’ away following into a frenzy as his thunderous long-range strike rattled the crossbar and bounced away.

Avenue, however, were very much still in the game, and some good work from Jamie Spencer down the right allowed him to find an unmarked Oli Johnson. His effort, however, was palmed wide by Brandon Hall.

Both sides had shown creative qualities going forward, but the winner was almost provided by a very route-one approach with 68 minutes on the clock. A long punt from Drench was flicked on by the head of Adam Boyes, which fell into the path of Nowakowski before the goal scorer steered his effort wide.

Both teams tired towards the latter stages of the closely-contested battle, but chances remained constant in the final ten minutes. A clever corner routine opened space for Ironside to shoot, but his attempt sailed harmlessly over Drench’s bar.

The final opportunity of the game brought more controversy, as Graham Kelly was the next to have a shot seemingly blocked by an outstretched arm. To the dismay of Avenue players and fans alike, the referee waved play-on and the spoils were shared.

Avenue return to action in two weeks’ time, as they travel to Darlington in their hunt to remain in the play-off chasing pack.

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