Preview: Harriers v Blyth Spartans
August 20, 2021

Preview: Harriers v Blyth Spartans

The first competitive match of the season at Aggborough sees Harriers entertain Blyth Spartans tomorrow afternoon.

Harriers will be keen to build on last weekend's excellent win at York with a first home win of the season to put them in a good position to be amongst the early pacesetters.

Geraldo Bajrami, the latest addition to the squad, could feature for the first time.  The former Birmingham City defender has been with Harriers for most of pre-season as "Player I" but only had his arrival confirmed earlier this week.  Manager Russ Penn, though, may choose to leave him on the bench and go with the same team that performed so well at York.

Like Harriers Blyth got off to a winning start to the season; JJ O'Donnell scored twice as they beat Alfreton at Croft Park.  The Opening Day league table that saw them in second place will be a welcome sight for them after the last two seasons of struggle have seen them twice avoid relegation due to the pandemic curtailing the season.

Last season goals from Ashley Hemmings and Max Taylor gave Harriers a 2-0 win in this fixture, maintaining their good record against Blyth that has seen them win five and draw two of nine previous meetings.  At Aggborough Harriers lead four wins to one from five games.

I expect Harriers to line-up as follows (4-2-3-1): Simpson; Foulkes, Richards, Lowe, Cameron; Carrington, Martin; Hemmings, Austin, Sterling-James; Freemantle.
Subs (from): Penny, Montrose, Bell, Bajrami, Lissimore, White, Emery
Missing (suspended): Morgan-Smith.
Missing (injured): Moyo.
Missing (on-loan): Palmer.

Tomorrow's referee is David McNamara from Preston.  This will be his fourth time in charge of a Harriers game, his last one was, coincidentally, this fixture last season.  His previous three games have all ended in Harriers wins, all without conceding a goal.

The weather forecast is grim with a 94% chance of rain and a temperature around 17°C.

Elsewhere there a first games of the season for several academy sides; the Under-21s entertain Halesowen Town at the training ground at 10:30am in the Midland League Under-21 South West Division. The Under-23s field two sides this season; in the West Midlands League Division 2 they visit Dudley Athletic while the Reserves entertain Leamington Reserves at the training ground in the Midland League Reserve Division.