Defeat at Aggborough for the Robins as pre-season comes to a close.Cheltenham lost to Kidderminster in their final pre-season friendly of the summer tonight.
Goals from Calum Gittings, Michael Gash and Ryan Rowe won the game for the hosts despite an earlier equaliser by Zack Kotwica.
Kidderminster deservedly took the lead on 31 minutes with a good team goal but Cheltenham hit back immediately when Zack Kotwica headed a Joe Hanks cross in just one minute later. The second half wasn't too different but Kidderminster had the lead again when Johnson's wing work provided Gash with the opportunity he needed to smash in his team's second of the night. Harriers were in control for the rest of the game after that point and Ryan Rowe put the result beyond doubt with a good finish on 88 minutes.
Defeat but a good workout ahead of the start of the 2013-14 Sky Bet League Two campaign.
A mix of youth and senior players made up the Robins ahead of this friendly with one eye clearly on Burton Albion at the weekend. A number of first team players were left out altogether while players who hadn't featured much against Cardiff were given starting places. Russell Milton would have the chance in the second half to glance over his youth team players as they entered the fray from the bench and promising winger Zack Kotwica started behind Byron Harrison as an attacking midfielder.
A warm and relaxed evening at Aggborough started on a competitive footing with Kidderminster instantly attacking Cheltenham down the middle and James Dance could have hit the target early on had a Cheltenham body not made a strong block to deny the hosts an effort on goal. The Harriers were clearly up for this game and they were biting at Cheltenham's ankles within the first ten minutes to try and build strong attacks against the Robins defence. Cheltenham, clad in Sky Blue, soon settled into their passing rhythm however and their first attack of the game saw Byron Harrison put it over the bar. A few minutes later and Keith Lowe could have put the Robins ahead but his header from Vincent's corner drifted wide of the post.
It was a good game in the opening 30 minutes but Kidderminster really should have been ahead when Gash caught hold of a floated cross and struck low at goal but Connor Roberts produced a solid save down low to deny the striker. The hosts were certainly the better side as the half neared it's end and again Kidderminster wasted a good opportunity to take the lead when Vaughan's strong effort was well saved and Dance blasted the rebound over the bar from close range.
There was no question that Kidderminster had been the stronger side in the first period but Cheltenham had held well with Connor Roberts forced to make some important saves and Mark Yates will have wanted more solidity at the back. Harriers got a deserved goal when Callum Gittings showed great touch to bring the ball down and fire past Roberts on 31 minutes handing his side the lead. The goal was welcomed by the home support but their smiles didn't last long as Cheltenham struck back just one minute later with Zack Kotwica heading in Joe Hanks' cross at the back post. The perfect reply for Cheltenham and suddenly the game had sprung to life.
The Robins could have taken the lead on 39 minutes when Taylor's through ball found Harrison and his pass back into the path of Vincent was hammered in by Kidderminster's central defender Chey Dunkley was on hand to use his body as a blockade. The first half came to a close on a much more even footing and the Robins looking a lot more comfortable than they had been at Aggborough.
Half Time: Kidderminster Harriers 1-1 Cheltenham Town
The second half began and it took just a few minutes before Kidderminster saw an effort well saved by Connor Roberts from a James Dance shot. The Harriers were doing their best to win the physical battle across the pitch and it was clearly evident in their effective man marking of Jermaine McGlashan but Cheltenham gave as good as they got and soon settled back into a rhythm again.
Mark Yates made his first changes by introducing trialists Callum Morris and Emmitt Delfouneso on 57 minutes at the expense of Jermaine McGlashan and Ed Williams. Those changes were quickly followed by a Kidderminster goal and it was down to some wonderful wing play from substitute Marvin Johnson as he slide past Lowe on the left and found the incoming Gash just beyond the back post. The Kidderminster striker made no mistake and smashed his shot in to make it 2-1 and put the Harriers back in control. Soon after they made a host of changes but their grip remained and the Robins weren't having any luck in forming an attack. Mickey Demetriou saw a low freekick well saved by Connor Roberts as the Harriers went in search of a third and the Robins were lacking in ideas.
Ten minutes to go and Harry Williams, who has been scoring freely for the youth team recently, replaced Joe Hanks. The change was almost followed by a Cheltenham equaliser when Delfouneso struck from outside the area with a speculative shot but Nathan Vaughan was alert and pushed it wide for a corner. Time was running out for the Robins as they started to put more pressure on the Kidderminster defence but the hosts were holding firm and countered well in the 88th minute to grab their third and the winner through Ryan Rowe. A good team goal that meant Cheltenham Town ended their pre-season with a loss.
The full time whistle blew and finished the game. A defeat for Cheltenham but a good workout and eyes firmly focussed on the game that matters this weekend against Burton Albion.
Full Time: Kidderminster Harriers 3-1 Cheltenham Town
Kidderminster Harriers FC (4-4-2): Lewis (GK) (N. Vaughan 46); L. Vaughan, Gowling (T. Williams 85), Dunkley (Grimes 76), Demetriou; Dance (Angus 67), Storer (Tolley 67), Fowler, Gittings (Byrne 67); Gash (Rowe 67), Malbon (Johnson 46)
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2): Roberts (GK); Hanks (H. Williams 81), Lowe, O'Donnell, Jones; McGlashan (Morris 57), Taylor, Williams (Delfouneso 57), Vincent; Kotwica (Powell 85); Harrison
Subs not used: Rivers (GK), Bowen, Hamilton, Keightley, Dale
Referee: Marvyn Amphlett
Attendance: 838 (124 from Cheltenham)
Star Man: Zack Kotwica